At the risk of sounding like your nan (“When I was small, this town was all fields, as far as the eye could see….”) there’s nothing like Christmas coming along again to make you realise how much life has changed since we were kids. Things seemed…. much more simple in the 80s and 90s when all you wanted was a Jem and the Holograms doll or a Gameboy to play Tetris on. Here’s how…
Meeting Father Christmas
Back when we were kids, we’d rock up to the local shopping centre, or leisure centre, with our mum, queue for ten minutes and then enter Santa’s Grotto. And by grotto, I mean a room with some glitter-covered cotton wool (aka the crappest snow ever) glued to the walls, a Christmas tree in the corner, Santa in a big chair and if you were lucky, one spotty-faced elf to help hand out presents. You’d sit on Santa’s knee (well that would never happen these days) and tell him what you’d like for Christmas. Then you’d be handed a gift from the pound shop, and off you went, happy as Larry.
Planning to take your little ones to meet Santa, this year? Better find out which date the tickets go on sale, cancel all plans and be by your computer at 9am, because these bad boys are going to be harder to get than Adele tickets. Our local garden centre starts selling tickets in August – AUGUST – and if you don’t buy them within an hour of them going on sale, the only tickets left will be for a Tuesday morning in November. Kids these days (a phrase which, in itself, makes anyone feel roughly 80-years-old) aren’t content with just having a quick chat with the big man, they expect a whole experience – whether it’s ice skating, festive games, making decorations, icing biscuits, making reindeer food or actually meeting the reindeer, if the grotto doesn’t feel like authentic Lapland (with a touch of Disneyland thrown in), you can forget it. And speaking of ice skating…
The only ice rinks we had in the 80s were huge indoor ones that were open all year round and we could go and dream of twirling like Jane Torvill did in the Olympics. Now, most towns have an outdoor rink pop up in December, where you can go and skate to the sounds of Slade, then have a little overpriced mulled wine and hot chocolate. There are more ways than ever to
part with your heard-earned cash celebrate Christmas as a family. Christmas markets, Christmas funfairs, pantomimes, plays based on Christmassy stories like Stick Man and The Snowman… And you’ve got to do them all, right? I mean everyone else is and they’re posting all those happy photos on Facebook.
Sharing the joy
I reckon social media actually has a large part to play in how different Christmas is for our kids. Ask yourself this: would the Elf on the Shelf even exist if we didn’t have Facebook and Instagram, for sharing the photos of the “crazy” “antics” that your elf is getting up to? Yes, they’re a fun way to countdown to Christmas (did I say fun? I meant incredibly annoying) but that’s what we have advent calendars for. When we were kids, we were happy with opening a cardboard door every day, to see which picture was behind it (I’m so old that chocolate advent calendars weren’t even a big thing).
We’re all so desperate to share our Christmas joy on social media (I hold my hands up – I get sucked into this too) but are we just piling on the pressure – to ourselves and everyone else? We appear to have created a Christmas contest with parents up and down the country vying for first place: Hygge-style shot of you drinking hot chocolate with your children watching The Polar Express – 2 points. Your kids’ advent calendar – 2 points. Your kids’ BOOK advent calendar – 4 points. Your amazingly decorated Christmas tree that wouldn’t look out of place at the Rockefeller Plaza – 5 points. Ice skating – 2 points. Daily Elf on the Shelf pics – 100 points.
I’m pretty sure a wise philosopher once said: If a family decorate a Christmas tree and the photos don’t get posted on social media, did it actually happen at all?
Christmas music and films
We’re raising an ‘on demand’ generation, where children can watch/listen/do something at any hour of the day, and that means Christmas is all around us, 24/7. Right now, in fact, I’m listening to the (quite frankly genius) Heart Christmas radio station – that’s 24 hours a day of festive tunes – and I may or may not be planning to make a killer Christmas playlist on Spotify. It’s a far cry from when we were kids, and the only festive album to have was The Christmas Album (seriously, reminisce at the track listing, it’s like taking a lovely little mental step back in time to the 80s, sequin puffball skirts and all). I had it on cassette and remember fast forwarding and rewinding to get to my favourite track (Wham’s Last Christmas obvs).
Nowadays, children also have endless Christmas movies on tap, thanks to Netflix, but do you REMEMBER the excitement over the big Christmas Day movie? We’d all sit down to watch it, tin of Quality Street on our lap and you couldn’t even pause it if you needed a wee – you had to just hold it in or time your wee for a quiet part of the film, hoping you don’t miss an important plot twist.
And remember how you decided what you wanted for Christmas? The Argos catalogue of course! The hours you could spend flicking through it, trying to decide whether neon yellow skateboard was better than a Girls’ World. And do you want the Game of Life or a Mr Frosty? My six-year-old decides what to ask Father Christmas for by watching her favourite YouTube channels (last year: Gooey Louie and Doggie Doo, this year: Pie Face Showdown) and by the time she gets one of them, she already knows exactly how it works and can tell the rest of the family how to set it up and play. I’m not going to lie, this comes in very handy.
So in summary: times have changed and I feel old. Now does anyone have some tinsel that I can wrap around my zimmer frame?