Tinsel town: The joy of Christmas vulgarity

This year I'm embracing the festivities, tacky lights and all


We’ve all seen the film “Deck the Halls”, right? You know the one where Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick get into a classic American small-town spat over who can have the most amazing Christmas decorations. DeVito’s character aims to have his house lights visible from space, and Broderick, the neighbourhood’s former Christmas kingpin is determined not to be outdone.

From my days living in the States I can attest that truth was more outrageous than fiction. We would visit the family for “the holidays” in Boston and drive around suburbs like Somerville and Saugus screaming with joy at the sheer OTT tackiness of whole streets of competitive Christmas lighting. Extravagant, wasteful, vulgar? Hell, it was fun.

Massachusetts Christmases came to mind at the weekend as I stood outside Selfridges in London’s Oxford Street marvelling at people marvelling at its Christmas displays: “that’s awesome – we’ve got to go in there” said a Geordie girl to her boyfriend, as if it was a surprise to find the store there. The whole world appeared to be entering Selfridges at 4.30pm on Saturday.

For Selfridges, read John Lewis, TopShop or Urban Outfitters: all bursting at the seams; all playing nonsense Christmas songs on a loop; and all staffed by the most helpful, affable and patient young staff, remaining good-humoured in the face of intense provocation despite being on shifts that ended at 11pm! They were certainly more professional than I was all those years ago in Allders of Croydon.

Yes, I did write that. It’s true. I know I’m supposed to find the whole damn Christmas shopping experience horrendous and ungodly, but something strange has come over me.

I actually thought the lights looked great, especially viewing them through the eyes of the countless excited children I saw being photographed against them. Even the Dreamworks-sponsored Regent St ones didn’t offend. At least there were lights. That extends to my neighbourhoods, Hammersmith and Chiswick, where it is so easy to mock the austerity efforts, but just for once, let’s not.

This year, I’m rejecting my usual metropolitan, taste-nazi tendencies. I’m loving how early people are putting up trees, delighting in those that don’t conform to the tyranny of white lights, seeking out the tackiest displays to show the girls, and am even going to break the habit of a lifetime and dress our own tree early this weekend.

Maybe it’s a peculiar mid-life crisis? I stood in the Christmas miracle that is a brand new HMV store behind two women who were buying Sir Cliff Richard calendars, and didn’t roll my eyes, but nodded approvingly.

I know we’re spending money we haven’t got. I know it’s environmentally wasteful and not rooted in religious meaning, but I don’t care. Lay on the tinsel, bring on the turkey and Christmas specials, and put multi-coloured lights on your trees. Banish humbug and enjoy it all just for its own sake. After a tough year, Santa Claus is coming to town, and nobody can persuade me otherwise.

Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live

Twitter.com: @stefanohat

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

Special Needs Teaching Assistant

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Special Educational Needs Teach...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: unbuilt buildings, the new Establishment and polling on Europe

John Rentoul
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London