Last Sunday I took a walk to the city centre after dark to attend an event I have anticipated since the middle of October-the arrival of Christmas in Leicester. As someone who has had extensive experience in the world of customer service, the premature appearance of red and green decorations and festive Christmas music is always met with dread. I’m not a Grinch by any means, but there are only so many times that you can listen to Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” in the late summer before you seriously begin to question your sanity. But when you are away from home, and without the seasonal pause for Thanksgiving, Christmas has never been more welcome especially in view of the elaborate decorations that colour the streets of Leicester. In the Town Hall Square, you will find that the trees surrounding the fountain are as brightly decorated as the large Christmas tree that stands beside a display of Thomas the Tank Engine. On the opposite side, there is an equally impressive display for the Wombles for the delight and entertainment of the children perched on their parent’s shoulders. Between these larger displays is a beautifully simple manger scene which can be viewed through the windows of a wooden display case. And all of these things lie in the shadow of the Town Hall which has brightened its facade with a mask of twinkling lights and Christmas Greetings.
On November 17th, all of these fascinating decorations which are so attractive to see in broad daylight were due to be turned on and so, with camera in hand, I ventured into the cold night to witness the spectacle for myself. I chose to follow the throng of people towards the frosted tree that stands beside (and as tall as) the Haymarket Memorial Clock Tower. On the way, I stopped to admire the transformation of the Leicester Fresh Market into the Winter Food Festival. For one day, the tables that are normally crowded with bowls of fruits and vegetables were loaded with multicultural foods, sweets and bakeries, and hand made crafts. I think the highlight was when I discovered that there are still women who can spin wool into thread at a spinning wheel (to be perfectly honest, I never thought to see that image outside of a storybook-no sign of Rumpelstiltskin though). I certainly hope we see a return of a Christmas market as we head into December.
The moment we all awaited for was a little anti-climactic as the Christmas lights flickered on and off until all of the strings were lit, but I would still describe the moment as spectacular. Of course, where I come from the lighting display in no way compares to what Leicester has to offer. A choir of children shivering round an evergreen and a long line of people waiting for a turn in the small heated tent to enjoy some scalding hot cocoa. In a contest of ceremonies, Leicester wins by several thousand miles. If you happen to be near the area, I would highly recommend taking a turn through the city centre and allowing the child in your heart to be enchanted at how easily an ordinary space can turn into a magical palace with a little colour and electricity. As I walked under the arches of red and green, blue and white, silver and gold, I reflected on the many things I am thankful for. I am thankful that I am studying a subject I love in a new and exciting country, I am thankful that the University of my choice has not fallen short of my expectations, and I am thankful that I do not have to travel very far to discover something wonderful in this town. I live in a rambler’s paradise and I look forward to experiencing many more holidays and events in future. I had room in my head for all of these thoughts as well as a steady stream of my favorite Christmas carols, which are impossible to resist now that I have been infected with the spirit of the season.
While I am on the subject of Christmas music, I thought it would be fun to compose my own little list of the best and worst Christmas songs that will soon pervade the air waves. Among my favorite choices, I have selected classic songs that I never tire of listening to and which I couldn’t imagine Christmas without. My blacklist may not include the worst songs ever written but every single one has been so overplayed and is so thick with maudlin sentiment that I cannot bear to hear them. Feel free to challenge my opinion and share your favorites in the comments below. I need some ideas for my ultimate playlist.
Ten Best Christmas Songs
10 “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”-Judy Garland
9 “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”-Andy Williams
8 “We Three Kings”-Ella Fitzgerald
7 “White Christmas”-Bing Crosby
6 “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”-Brenda Lee
5 “Blue Christmas”-Elvis Presley
4 “Love Turns Winter to Spring”-June Christy
3 “The First Noel”-King’s College Choir Cambridge
2 “Christmas Eve”-Trans-Siberian Orchestra
1 “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”-King’s College Choir Cambridge
Ten Worst Christmas Songs
10 “O Holy Night”-(By every artist who thinks too highly of their talents)
9 “Santa Baby”-Madonna
8 “Grown Up Christmas List”-Amy Grant
7 “The Christmas Shoes”-NewSong
6 “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”-Elmo and Patsy
5 “Where Are You Christmas”-Faith Hill
4 “Do They Know it’s Christmas”-Band Aid
3 “When Christmas Comes to Town”-from The Polar Express
2 “Wonderful Christmastime”-Paul McCartney
1 “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”-John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Why not celebrate the holidays by visiting the Victorian Studies Blog?
Music: “The Nutcracker Suite Op. 71A”-Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Book: “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”-Arthur Conan Doyle
Film: A Christmas Carol (1984)