So I log to my VPN to have a peek at what’s happening back at home but all I can get are these American news about Black Friday. I refresh and reboot and realise that I’m not watching CNN or Fox, its Irish news and the reports are all on about Black Friday. Confusing because, when I left Ireland seven years ago, there was no such thing. All we knew about Black Friday was that it was in America and a good opportunity to buy a Television on special offer. Now, all of a sudden, Black Friday has gripped Ireland and Ireland in turn has embraced Black Friday like it was always part of the fabric of Irish society.
Bearing in mind I’m coming from the vulnerable position of it being just after Halloween. Halloween where stories of banshee was the most frightening thing, it used to be a simple ‘Halloween Night’, but is now more of a, ‘Halloween fortnight’ and a multi-million dollar trick or treat industry which has trampled on our humble Halloween.
Now Black Friday has made a dramatic entrance and it introducing itself as being the start of the Christmas shopping season. The traditional start of Christmas was the 8th December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and once recognised as the big shopping day before Christmas, where all the country people flocked to the cities to buy seasonal goodies.
Of course that tradition has faded as the shop started opening on Sundays and longer opening hours so the shopping frenzy was spread more evenly across all of December. In the last decade or so, footfall has soared but check out the number carrying shopping bags – not too many. The streets are packed, cafes, pubs and restaurants are packed but not so many bags. More and more people are making the trip to the big smoke just to soak up the atmosphere, have a hot chocolate in the cold and see the lights, they browse, window shop and price the items they want, they go home, throw on the PJ’s, flick on Come Dine with Me and shop online, getting more and more liberal with those perilous 16 digits as the wine flows. Yes, online shopping must be the biggest cause of the reduction in people actually shopping in a shop.
So while we can’t altogether blame Black Friday for the slow demise of the 8th of December, we can, question who exactly is driving our retail habits from our own traditions to those of mass market. It’s not the locally owned shops that take on extra staff to manage the Christmas rush. Or Mary in the chemist who wraps all the perfume with great care and pride. Or Betty in the bakery who turns out more mince pies in December than a small Marks and Spencer’s. All the things that made Christmas when I lived at home, are they even there anymore? Or have all the Marys and Bettys of the world been replaced by John Lewis and Littlewoods?
So I’m wondering how in a few short years did Ireland catch on to this and what else has changed since we left? Is there still St. Patricks Day or has that been swapped out for the stars and stripes of Independence Day? Should we forget the abstinence of All Souls Month, make egg nog and celebrate Thanksgiving altogether? Or is that already the case. And this Christmas instead of placing the Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Morning, will we instead have the donkey, the sheep and the cattle breathing warmth onto a light-up Harvey Norman figure in the crib where Jesus once was.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m not a fan of change, and more especially since we emigrated. I like to think that home is always as it was but the reality is that here I am in Qatar, teaching and preaching the values of an out-dated Ireland, Irishness and Christmas to my children that they will never see.
Whenever we decide to move back to the Emerald Isle should be instead get pre-clearance in Abu Dhabi and head straight for America because by time we come back, will Ireland be any different?