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Archive for April, 2010

Christmas in the City

Written about 4 years ago

The big day has been and gone now, but actually, it seems like Christmas has been here for weeks.  Decorations and cards in the shops, special offers on TV – Christmas seems to start earlier each year in the commercial world.  It is all too easy to lose a proper perspective on things.

This year saw my family and I travelling into Edinburgh city centre on Christmas Day.  It was a rather strange experience, driving without hindrance on roads normally bustling with traffic.  Edinburgh was a city at rest, unlike our minibus, which in comparison seemed to be almost overflowing with six exuberant children.

As we drove through the streets with their sleeping shops, it was somehow gratifying to see glimpse after glimpse of festive living rooms – Christmas trees, twinkling lights, tinsel, poinsettia and candles.  The warm glow of lights in the windows showed that the city was very much awake and celebrating enthusiastically.

Amidst the “oohs” and “aahs” of my excitable menagerie in the back, I turned my attention instead to those few who were walking the city streets.  It soon became apparent that they fell into four easily distinguishable groups.

First were those walking very purposefully with a specific destination in mind.  Most were alone, but some were couples.  Many were to be seen clutching large, awkward-shaped packages, while some carried bags in which the square corners of boxes clearly showed.   All seemed cheerful, perhaps looking forward to spending time with family or friends.

The second group consisted of those who were out walking simply for the sheer pleasure of the experience.  Those engaged in this contemplative activity were generally not in the first flush of youth.  The weak sun made no inroads in the chilly air, but the day was clear and quiet.  To be honest, the thought of a leisurely stroll, complete with scarf and gloves was quite tantalising.  That is, until I remembered that my little darlings would immediately shatter any hope I might have for quiet reflection.

The third group was not readily obvious until we reached the cultural hub of the city centre.  These were the tourists, generally observed to exist in small huddles.  They were distinguished by the time they spent looking up at the sights and the profusion of cameras with which they were festooned.  An interesting concept I think, spending Christmas Day sightseeing in a foreign land.

Finally, the fourth group – perhaps poignantly the most memorable of all.  Again, they were not conspicuous at first glance, but this time for a different reason.  Wrapped up against the bitter chill and huddled in small corners, or walking slowly with heads bent low were those who live on our city streets all year round.  In fact, so often do we see them that sadly, we often forget to acknowledge their existence at all.  These people had nowhere to go, no place to call home.  They had no family or friends to enjoy Christmas with.  In fact, they had nothing to enjoy.  For them, Christmas Day was just another day to survive and exist through.

All of a sudden, I felt a little ashamed at all the things I take for granted at Christmas.  The food, the presents, the warmth, and most importantly, the love and companionship of family and friends are actually inconceivable luxuries to some.

My brief glimpse of Christmas in the city opened a window of insight that has allowed me to refocus my perspective and to remember what is really important.

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