It’s hard not to use the C-word

Michael Wolsey – As I See It

I was siting by a sunny pool in sunny Spain a few weeks ago when an email popped into my iPad that darkened the holiday mood. “All aboard the Polar Express,” it said. “We are delighted to announce the return of Santa’s Polar Express experience at the Slieve Donard Resort.”

It invited me to “book your tickets now” for a train trip in December at this luxury hotel beside Royal County Down golf course. I’ve never stayed there, or played golf there, and I don’t know why they picked me out as a target for their advertising. But strange things happen online. It was the timing, not the targeting, that I found annoying.

There is a time and place for everything and July 25 on a Spanish island is neither the time nor place to be told about Santa’s excursion plans.

I intended to write about it when I returned but held off because of a vow I made some years back never to put the C-word into print until at least December 1.

‘There is a time and place for everything and July 25 on a Spanish island is neither the time nor place to be told about Santa’

I nearly broke it when, on my first day back in Ireland, I read that Brown Thomas, the posh Dublin store, had already opened its yuletide shop.

“If you want to get the best products you have to get in early,” explained Edel Woods, the store’s Group Buyer.

True to her own maxim, Ms Woods began planning this year’s store in the autumn of 2017. “I’ve been going out to markets since last November to look at trends and to see what works ,” she said. “It’s an all year round job.”

My restraint on the C-word was further tested this week when I discovered my local supermarket was stocking Christmas confectionary. There they were, glittering in an aisle, little chocolate Santas wrapped in silver, reindeers in gold,and Christmas trees in green tinsel.

A bit late to be clearing leftover stock, was my first thought. Surely the sell-by date must have passed by now? Then I had a closer look and found that the sell-by date was still a long way off. For these were not last year’s leftovers but heralds of the season that is still three months away.

There was a bit of a fuss a few years back when it was discovered that Marks and Spencer’s had mince pies with a sell-by date that ruled them out before December 25 and seasonal jelly babies whose time was up on December 9. The shop argued that customers enjoy eating them in autumn and in the build-up to the festive season. Nowadays, they’d hardly need to explain. There must be mince pies in some shops with a sell-by date of May.

You may note that I am sticking to my vow about the C-word. Nobody else is. Flyers are announcing the festive attractions on offer at various hotels. Newspapers are carrying ads for party packages: “Book now. The best slots are going fast.”

Yes, and life is also going fast as we mingle the seasons in our haste to honour the great god of marketing.

Consumerism is the only religion that will get a look-in come December. So let me take the opportunity now to quote from the Book of Ecclesiastes: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

And Santa, my old pal, that includes you – and your Polar Express.