Christmas lines seem to have been in the stores for months but I suppose the official switching on of Oxford Street’s festive lights by The Saturday’s girl band yesterday marks the ‘official’ opening of the yuletide season for Londoners.
Almost as traditional used to be complaints that Christmas was starting earlier and earlier in the high street. But this time round, though still only early November, there doesn’t seem to be as many objections as is usual.
I put this down to the dearth of good news both at home and internationally, which has made 2011 a year to forget. So much so that having Christmas on the horizon will be a welcome diversion to many.
This is not to say there won’t be a noticeable belt tightening. Retailers used to be able to count on the British public always pushing the boat out at Christmas even when the economy was in the doldrums.
But I’ve never known so much uncertainty about the immediate future. Consumers are going to be cautious in their Christmas spending. Presents buying will be last minute as shoppers count on winter sales seasons being launched by many stores before December 25th.
It used to be that toys were immune from economic gloom. But I expect Father Christmas too will be more restrained than in previous years.
One unusual feature may be because of all the uncertainty about how 2012 will unfold, the birth of Jesus might get more attention than the Nativity usually warrants.
The British are for the most part an irreligious bunch not given to spiritual debate. But by accident the Occupy London Stock protesters having failed were obliged to take up tented residence outside St Paul’s Cathedral.
This has forced the church authorities to declare for God or Mammon. There can be little doubt that Jesus would have supported the poor and the weak against greedy bankers.
Today we had the unlikely event of David Cameron at PMQs praising the Archbishop of Canterbury saying Rowan Williams spoke for the country in attacking greed and excess.
So perhaps as a nation we are being forced to think more deeply about the sort of Britain we want our children to inherit.
I’m not convinced but I am open to persuasion. X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing seem to prompt a more passionate response in the heart of the average Briton than anything happening outside St Paul’s.
This may change if, as seems likely, the economic crisis deepens.