Winter in Northern Europe is something so familiar. The dreary rain, the short sunlight hours, hoping there will be snow to brighten the place up and then cursing the snow once it arrives. The run-up to Christmas entails the same degree of mania every year, unless you decide to avoid the whole thing entirely.
Below the equator the sun burns and the days are long, but shops still decorate themselves with gold and red-adorned Christmas trees and surprising amounts of tinsel. Gone are the snow flake decorations or the fake snow sprayed into the inside of window panes, but still, one cannot help but associate Christmas decorations with winter. As I drive down the highway in thirty-degree heat, an inflated Santa Claus the height of the shopping mall it stands next to grins into the distance. One arm raised in a bizarre kind of salute, a green mitten-clad hand waves in the breeze. It is a surreal sight.
Whereas the shops seem to buy into the promise of a hike in sales from Christmas, most houses do not seem to be outwardly decking the halls with boughs of holly. Occasionally, I spot a house with a colourful wreath on the front door, but one in particular has full lawn decorations, the kind confined to American sitcoms and internet memes.
Reindeer are outlined in fairy lights and tinsel rustles in the heat, awkwardly reflecting the sunlight into the eyes of passers-by. An entire nativity comprises one half of the space, made of plastic and with a baby Jesus bigger than the size of a real baby. The figurines are sun-bleached, as though they are wearing tie-die: a new-wave rendition of an ancient story.
For someone so far from home, the scene looks as though the owners forgot to take down their decorations from last year, so infatuated as they are by the magic of Christmas. The faded Virgin Mary and three shepherds, kneeling from heat exhaustion, could have been there for decades. The nativity on this front lawn reminds me of the still sealed advent calendar I have in my suitcase, and of the worry I felt at the thought of ‘missing’ Christmas.
Phoebe Ellis-Rees, Student Arts&Culture
Although different, it seems as though I’ve not gotten as far away from Christmas as I thought, and surprisingly, I find this a little disappointing. It is harder to unplug, opt-out and go rogue than I thought, especially when everything is so interconnected.