The annual buying frenzy leading up to Christmas is a fascinating phenomenon, isn’t it? A time when logic and commonsense often surrenders to tinsel and trinkets.
I bumped an old friend last week and he was shaking his head.
“What’s wrong, mate?” I asked.
“You won’t believe it Geoffrey, but I have been sent down town to buy a bloody Christmas tree.”
Then he went on to explain that he and his wife were off to Toowoomba to spend Christmas with their kids and grandkids.
“Yet I still have to fork out $50 bucks for a fresh pine tree that will be spending Christmas by itself quietly dropping needles on our lounge-room floor.”
I tried to cheer him up by assuring him things would be much worse if he lived in Europe where the Christmas trees were going up everywhere in the first week of November when we were travelling in Italy and Austria last month.
Not only were Christmas trees going up, but so were entire villages of market stalls. They were being constructed in every town square and spare park, with teams of carpenters and electricians working frantically around the clock.
A couple of years ago we were rattling around in Europe during our first northern hemisphere Christmas – literally a world away from mid-summer heat in Moss Vale.
The days were short, dank, bleak and drizzly with occasional snow flurries. But more daunting were the famous European Christmas markets, crammed full of frantic shoppers dodging and weaving like a feeding frenzy of fish frantically foraging for food. So many people, so much junk.
Travel companies, trains, cars and cruise ships dump hordes of shoppers on the popular European Christmas market towns.
“The smell of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine wafts by, the sound of Christmas music fills the air, brightly coloured wooden stalls display their wares and everyone’s face is aglow,” said a glossy brochure inviting people to visit the Christmas markets in Heidelberg.
The brochure painted a picture of, “festive stalls forming a carpet of colour in many of the squares and cobbled streets, each selling unusual gifts and trinkets that you just can’t resist.”
Then it went on to describe the wonderful things you can spend your money on – colourful, painted baubles, festive decorations, a plentiful array of hats and scarves, snug slippers, novel ornaments, unusual candles, cockle-warming food and mulled wine."
Despite the hype I certainly didn’t see anything at a Christmas market I couldn’t possibly live without, except perhaps for the cockle-warming food and mulled wine.
Which brings us to Dudley, who had become separated from his good wife Grace in a busy shopping mall while out buying Christmas gifts.
"I’ve lost my wife somewhere here in the shopping centre,” said Dudley to a stunningly good-looking lady at the perfume counter.
“Do you mind having a chat with me for a couple of minutes?"
"Why talk to me?" she asked, puzzled.
"Because every time I talk to a good-looking woman my wife just appears out of nowhere."
Later he was wandering aimlessly around the shopping centre when he accidentally bumped into a pleasant young man.
“Sorry mate,” said Dudley. “I was looking for my wife and I wasn’t watching where I was walking.”
“No worries,” said the young man, “I was doing exactly the same thing.”
“Well, maybe we can help each other find our wives,” suggested Dudley.
“What does your wife look like?”
“She is in her early 20s, tall, with blond hair, big blue eyes, long legs and she’s wearing hot pink shorts and a tight white singlet,” said the young bloke, who then asked; “What does your wife look like?”
“Doesn’t matter,” said Dudley. “Let’s look for yours.”
Anyhoo, you have a mighty pleasant Christmas. See you again in the New Year.