Shazia Mirza’s Weekend Column

It is Sunday 8 November, 2009. I walked into a restaurant this evening, to see a 6ft Christmas tree in the entrance, fully decorated with a gold angel at the top, Christmas lights and balls and tinsel running all over it. On the wall was a menu for lunch on Christmas Day. Everything in this country is late. The trains, the post, even the rail replacement bus service. But Christmas is 47 days early.

When I saw this tree, I wanted to kick it out of the door and down the street. It’s too soon. They may as well have put it up in June.

This never happens with Easter. I never see Easter eggs on display in January, and I don’t know anyone who gives up chocolate seven weeks before Lent starts.

My local post office is a little shop of horrors. It is a place where you can get a skipping rope, gaffer tape and a fluorescent telephone all on the same shelf. They are now selling musical Christmas cards and crackers. It’s November, I am queueing for my stamps on a Monday morning, and all I can hear is Good King Wenceslas. They must be hoping to get people into the festive spirit, so that everyone can start spending money, but most of the people in this queue look pretty miserable.

A girl I went to school with, who spends a lot of her time announcing to the whole world all her most personal thoughts and feelings through Facebook, posted on her home page a few weeks ago, “Only 76 days left till Xmas!” The only people who count days down like that are prisoners. Maybe there is not much going on in her life and Christmas is the big event tolook forward to. It’s like waiting for the world to end.

I am now dreading the next step which is inevitable. The kids who live over the road from me were moving a big box yesterday. This is the box of doom. Inside it is all the equipment needed for lighting up their house so that it looks like a fluorescent radioactive spaceship. The good thing is, no one else in the street has to switch on any house lights while there is a flashing orange Santa occupying the front of house 23; his sack alone is enough to light the whole street till the end of January.

People preparing for Christmas so far ahead must experience something akin to taking heroin. You look forward to that hit, and then suffer a huge comedown when it’s over.

I have been receiving Christmas brochures with everything I have bought recently. They always say, “Great gift ideas for the festive season.” I look at these ideas and they baffle me. I don’t know anyone who would like a bogey green cashmere jumper with a matching kettle and toaster. And you can’t buy someone a clock-radio every year.

I wish these gift ideas would be more honest. I’d like to see, “Don’t bother getting anyone anything. They’ll only put it in the bin or give it to Oxfam – where it will be resold at a higher price than it was originally. Just give them cash. They’re probably in debt, need the drains unblocked and their car needs an MOT.”

Consumerism nourishes greed. Commercials on TV advertising the latest toys make parents feel guilty if they don’t buy their child the £500 trainers with lights and wheels on. They may think life will be more glamorous with new trainers, but what’s the point when you’ve got no house to live in.

The worst thing is when people give you Christmas presents because they feel sorry for you. Aged 10, me and my Jewish friend Jonathan once received Christmas presents from a couple from Scunthorpe whom we met on a school trip who gave us some of their cast-offs. These were a pair of size 10 fleece socks and a ball point pen with a moving ship inside it.

There should be a law against putting up Christmas trees and decorations early. Nothing should beallowed until 23 December.

But I’d like to take this opportunity to say to everyone, “Happy Christmas.” Hope it’s not too soon.