Leading article: A very Downton Abbey Christmas

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The Independent Online

After a day feasting with the family, what will great swathes of the British public be doing on Christmas night?

Watching the two-hour Downton Abbey special, of course. And what does this tell us about ourselves? Actually, plenty. If there was ever a window into the collective cultural psyche, then Downton is it.

Far from the classless utopia of social mobility that we are all supposed to want, Downton-mania reveals instead deep longings for the past. We don't want iPhones and a new job every five years and everyone called by their first name. No. We hanker in our hearts for imperial wealth, for repressive formality, and, more than anything, for rigid social structures where everyone knows their place.

Then again, in a world rocked by the geopolitical uncertainties of the Arab Spring, troubled by the moral ambiguities of everything from rioting teenagers to military intervention, and shaken by the economic incomprehensibilities of the euro, is it any wonder that a simpler life looks so appealing – particularly one with all the harsh realities airbrushed out?

So sit back, relax, and escape to the glorious reliability of the Dowager Countess's put-downs and the grand MacGuffin of whether Lady Mary will marry Matthew Crawley after all. But most of all, however you spend the evening, have a very happy Christmas.