It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…… maybe it is the child in me but I really enjoy the festive season. When I was child sized (it’s been said I still am) it was all about waiting for the big day and opening presents, Christmas dinner and new films on the television.
Since I was young it seems to have become more commercial, maybe this is natural, most things are about profit now or possibly it has always been the case and it was less noticeable when growing up.
It is still a special time of the year however, when family and friends that haven’t seen each other for sometime meet up and make an particular effort to get along. Old disagreements are set aside, most people just seem to have a different attitude at Christmas.
So far the festive season hasn’t appeared so obvious this year, possibly my own fault, not having made any trips into the city. The only indication has been when the television is switched on and the inevitable round of advertisements for turkey, booze, chocolate and perfume.
I enjoy spending time at Christmas markets, especially when based in Germany. It was possible to stroll down on my own and within half an hour would be sitting with several friends enjoying a glühwein or feuerzangenbowle, currywurst and good banter. There is a local one in Manchester but it does not have the same feel about it, again it’s more commercial and there’s less space to relax.
So far the only opportunity to get some festive cheer has been in the Rhône-Alpes region of France. Time was limited but the Christmas market in Grenoble and especially the annual Lyon Festival of Lights enabled me to find some Christmas spirit, metaphorically and literally. It is great to see people out to have a good time and to be able to join in especially sharing with some companions of my own.
Both events were crowded but usually there was still enough space to move around comfortably and plenty of opportunities to eat and drink from the dozens of street vendors. There is even a French version of glühwein though it is called vin chaud and often seems just that, with little or no spices included. The lively streets are filled with the sounds and sights of people celebrating and the aroma of roasted chestnuts or hotdogs smothered in mustard carries on the light breeze tempting even the most well fed.
Children know how to enjoy themselves without much encouragement, wandering the streets with wide-eyed wonder but maybe even the most cynical adult believes in the magic of Christmas for just a moment. Parents feed on their own children’s delight, smiling gleefully and sharing their joy as they clamber aboard a garish carrousel, maybe even joining them.
My favourite thing about this time of year is the decorations, there is so much colour involved. Large and small conifer trees adorned from top to bottom with vibrant ornaments, public squares appearing like Christmas grottos and bright multi-hued lights hang in almost every street. Even the most drab city can seem to be a Christmas wonderland, attractive cities like Lyon and Grenoble appear dazzling.
I enjoyed visiting both cities and am grateful that they provided me with a little festive cheer. Thankfully it’s never too late to get into the Christmas spirit and it is better late than never.