Nothing ever stays the same. That’s a fact of life. And Christmas is no exception. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 50 years, you may have noticed subtle changes when it comes to the so-called ‘traditional’ Christmas.
We’re not talking here about empty churches across the UK – they do in fact fill up to a surprising extent at Christmas as people attempt to re-create the memories of their younger years.
We’re not even talking about re-runs of old TV shows – Morecambe and Wise, The Royle Family et al. Or even those block-buster films that flicker in the background while the turkey and pudding gradually course their way through your bloated body.
No folks. We’re talking here about subtle details… Like whether you eat turkey or goose; whether you send electronic ‘cards’ or the timeless tangible versions that cost a fortune to post; or whether you opt for an artificial Christmas tree or stay with the ‘safe’ pine-scented real thing, complete with fallen needles that will still be making an appearance on your carpet around about Easter time!
On the surface, you may think things are just like the old days – the carols, the Queen on TV, and those familiar Christmas hits that provide the perfect back-drop for your petty family squabbles.
Even deciding when to have your first Christmas Day drink has become part of the ritual (late morning seems a bit early to be opening the Pinot Grigio!). How many sherries can your Aunt Doris tolerate? And is it fair that the man of the house has retired into a corner with a large bottle of vodka while the womenfolk compare notes on how moist a turkey breast really should be?
Yes, everything seems ‘normal’ – just like last year, and the year before that. But hold on a minute! We’re all better off now, aren’t we? Kind of ‘middle class’ – with more sophisticated tastes and more disposable income to ‘up the game’ a bit.
So there’s a constant battle going on between Christmas traditionalists on the one hand, and the emerging class of ‘Christmasistas’ on the other who will stop at nothing to introduce ‘new, improved versions’ to a festival that has, by definition, stood the test of time for long enough!
The Christmas Tree Debate
Let’s go back to that old chestnut, the Christmas Tree. New, improved technology has created some incredibly realistic trees that only an expert could differentiate from the real thing. PVC trees have given way to versions with PE (polyethylene) tips. And you can even buy ‘luxury’ 100 per cent PE trees where moulds have been taken from the real thing.
Why would you want to go out every year to buy a real tree, only to throw it on the local tip three weeks later? Think of the carbon footprint. And think of your poor carpet! It’s not as though real trees are getting any cheaper either. The £50 you pay for the privilege of having a pine-scented tree could go some way towards investing in an artificial Christmas tree that could last up to 10 years – guaranteed!
Things have moved on since Victorian times. Unsuspecting trees were dragged indoors by all types of families – and they weren’t averse to bringing in holly, ivy, mistletoe and every other evergreen imaginable.
Nowadays, of course, we have to deal with scarcity and cost – especially those who live in urban areas. It’s not an option for them to visit destruction on ancient woodland in the interests of adorning their homes for the all-too-short Christmas season.
A recent survey by consumer group Which? discovered that at least half of UK households will opt for artificial Christmas trees – and the numbers are growing. Convenience and speed of setting up are obvious factors in this development.
There’s no denying the appeal of unpacking your artificial tree every Christmas and discovering it still looks great. You can set it up and pack it away in minutes and, if you choose a pre-lit tree, you don’t have the perennial frustration of wondering why last year’s lights no longer work.
Buying a real tree does have its own list of bonuses – the annual ritual of finding the ideal tree for you; the idea that you’re keeping up a tradition; creating the ‘familiar’ smell of Christmas – and a host of sentimental reasons. For many people, the solution is to buy both types of Christmas tree.
Perhaps more than any other Christmas tradition, the argument about choosing either a real or an artificial Christmas tree continues to rage. Like every other aspect of this most glittering time of the year, it shows how much passion we have for creating new trends alongside retaining the traditional Christmas trappings.