Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas - where is the message?

King Street devoid of characteristic signs.

I took a walk at lunchtime today, down King Street and Ocean Road, South Shields, and I was struck by the lack of characteristic signs of Christmas in our shops. There really are no shop windows of any worth down there this year. Very little in the way of tinsel, frosted windows, snowflakes, cribs and animals, or other religious signs of Christmas, just what has become of our retailers?
Many retailers are reporting poor sales figures for the run up to Christmas and are hoping for a bumper last minute rush to the tills in the remaining two weeks, but I fear they have done little to entice us to spend our money. I know we don't have a "Fenwick's window" in South Shields, and that Binns, (who used to always put in a good effort) is no longer there, but those who are have spent little or no time at all in decorating their shop windows with a Christmas theme to tease the money out of our wallets, yet they expect the council to pull out all of the stops to create some atmosphere with the Christmas Illuminations (yes, I know that the shops contribute something towards the cost.)

This is becoming common in High Streets throughout the U.K. including the major shopping streets in London, this is from today's Daily Telegraph:

In an era when the traditions of Christmas are increasingly under fire, many shops appear to have abandoned their traditional displays in favour of less "culturally specific" images. Instead of wise men, Santas and reindeer, shoppers are being enticed with topiary, skeletons and suspenders.Church leaders believe the move reflects a worrying trend in Britain to turn Christmas into the secular celebration of Winterval.

Karl McKeever, a shop display consultant with the company Visual Thinking, believes too many retailers are "dumbing down" and turning their backs on conventional Christmas displays.

"They are trying to be as polite and inoffensive as they can and they've abandoned the notion of Yuletide," he says. "The most Christmassy it gets for many shops is the odd snowflake. The one store we found that had any real evidence of Christmas was Ted Baker - and that had a reindeer."

The Bishop of Bolton said stores were falling into the trap of believing Christmas was offensive to non-Christians. The Right Rev David Gillett, the chairman of the Christian Muslim Forum, said:

"When you talk to other faith communities, the Muslim members are not offended by Christmas. It's a Christian festival and they recognise that."

Whilst the shops are struggling to get enough customers through the doors to satisfy the demands of dividend seeking shareholders, our cathedrals face the problem of trying to deal with too many worshippers and are having to lay on extra services and provide additional seats.

Canon Lucy Winkett, at St Paul's, said:

"We were overwhelmed on Christmas Eve last year and must have turned away a crowd of at least 800 who couldn't get in."

The Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev Colin Slee, said his cathedral was holding 35 special services over Christmas, a record number.

"People are searching for what it is to be English," he said. "My hunch is that many have reached the point when they realise how dangerous rampant secularism really is, and they want to preserve their Christian heritage."

I firmly believe that people are turning away from secularism, profit, and the rampant commercialisation of Christmas, and that many regret the lack of religious significance attached to the festival by those in public life, the press, and now our shopkeepers too!


The Daily Telegraph

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