Missing an Oxford Street Christmas?
“WHY. AM. I. IN. OXFORD. STREET. ON. A. SATURDAY. IN. DECEMBER??? WHY???”
This was the comment posted on Facebook recently by a friend in London. It reminded us, so well, of the hellish trips we used to take into the West End of London in a fevered attempt to find presents as we rushed headlong into the festive season. The fact that West End stores prolong the buying season by displaying Christmassy goodies before summer has even waved its last farewell made the Christmas shopping experience no less stressful
As we approach our third Christmas in our adopted country, it’s a good time to assess whether or not we miss anything about Christmas in the UK. We can probably count on two fingers those things that are not so readily available here and that we do miss. For me, personally, Christmas music is always a fundamental part of the run up to the big day. Some of my fondest memories include a Christmas Eve choral concert in Canterbury Cathedral, and a traditional visit to St John’s Smith Square to hear the choir Polyphony perform what has to be one of the greatest interpretations of Handel’s Messiah known to man. While I was presenting my much-missed Classical music radio programme for The Wireless, I was fortunate enough to be able to produce my own seasonal playlists, and I do very much miss putting together beautiful Christmas choral collections.
Apart from that, I think we both agree that we love Christmas in Spain, even though 25th December is not really the most important day in these parts.
December here comes around VERY quickly. The shops do not even acknowledge December until the month actually starts. Christmas lighting displays in the cities are not turned on until the very end of November, so there is none of that relentless drilling of commercial imperative, and sentimental guilt-tripping that seems to go hand in hand with Christmas these days.
However, as far as a seasonal setting goes, we could hardly be better placed. Following the first, early falls of snow, the Sierra Nevada provides the most stunning backdrop. There are many times, as we drive from our village to Granada, that we turn a bend in the road to be faced by a surreal image that could conceivably have been lifted from Switzerland and dropped in the Spanish vastness. Elegant decorations span the boulevards of Granada, often competing with the still impossibly vibrant colours of autumn leaves on trees. After an unsettled couple of weeks, the first fortnight of December has been blessed with the kind of weather that reminds us why we live here: crisp and clear blue skies, warm sun during the day and endless, cloudless skies at night pierced by stars and twinkling distant lights. Christmas, although we know it is but a couple of weeks away, could not be further from our minds as we take a walk through stunning countryside to take in the breathtaking views.
The evenings do their best to remind us that we are in winter, and we are immensely grateful for our wood-burning stove. Our Christmas tree is up, brightening one corner of our little rented house, and we have made sure that the drinks cabinet is well-stocked!
Everything else we need, we can get very easily. Christmas shopping is not the tortuous experience we so often had to endure in London, trying to navigate a route through swathes of unfestive-looking people trudging along wet pavements under a seemingly relentless mild and grey sky. We nip into Granada, have a quick whizz to pick up a few trinkets and then repair to the nearest bar for an unhurried glass of cava or vermut, accompanied by a tasty tapa.
There is no doubting that we miss family, but the cost of air travel and accommodation at Christmas just makes a mockery of the concept of a season of goodwill. Instead, we make immediate plans for family visits in January, and then this year we have a skiing week booked in for February - a mere hour’s drive from our home.
We both love Christmas, but it is interesting that it has been as a result of living here that we have been able to appreciate the aspects of the season that mean the most. We don’t have that stress and pressure of the mad shopping trips, although Santa Claus does still bring us stockings and tree presents! Food is, and always has been, a major pleasure at Christmas, and we eat just as well, if not better, here in our little village. Our last two Christmas Day picnics (Watson tradition!) have both been wonderful, and we relish time in the kitchen whipping up sausage rolls, roast joints, platters of cheese and cakes.
Christmas is, after all, what we choose to make it rather than something we are forced to accept due to the relentless commercial wooing of carols, Christmas advertisements, “Home Alone’, Marks and Spencer food imagery (yum…) and so much more.
There is no Bah-Humbug mentality in our house, and we are very much looking forward to a Christmas Day when we will wake up to see what Santa has delivered. We will then trek off to spend the rest of Christmas Day and Boxing Day with two of our favourite people in their finca overlooking glorious countryside, and I expect we will eat, drink and be merry.
Then the New Year brings all sorts of excitements as we enter a new phase of our lives here; a phase that beds us in as we look forward to moving into our new home. A New Year that sees us running our creative course holidays, bookings for which have already started to materialise. A year that sees our time here mature a little more after two years of what has seemed like a form of exuberant adolescence. Early 2019 promises to deliver another period of uncertainty for many, but we feel confident that we can weather whatever storm global politics decides to brew up. Our life is relatively simple, and that’s how we like it. Oxford Street on a Saturday in December? Bah Humbug…
If you know anyone who might like to join us for one of our Creative Courses here in glorious Granada, details can be found on our Granada Concierge website.