Thanksgiving. Sounds like everything I love about Xmas, only without the presents…as far as I know. I’m not up on Thanksgiving history/culture.It does seem odd that in such a God-fearing country as America is, a lot more people seem to put more emphasis on Thanksgiving than on Xmas. As far as I know, it is when the turkey dinner is traditionally eaten, not as it is in Europe and in particular Britain when it’s at Xmas. Families seem to try harder in the U.S. to be together for Thanksgiving. People don’t feel pressured into exchanging presents, as we do with ever increasing financial strain, year after year at Xmas. Lastly, it doesn’t seem to be an overtly religious event (despite it being called Thanksgiving – IE: giving thanks to God – I assume – for a plentiful bounty and all the “good things” in our lives), despite the name of the holiday. I wish we had Thanksgiving in England. But then, maybe not. I do love some of the aspects of Xmas. I think the time of year is better. It’s just that little bit later into winter. Not so ideal for shopping, but lovely for Xmas eve and Xmas day, sitting around the fire, having lovely, big and hot meals that make you feel like you’ve put on 10 pounds in 1 hour! I love Xmas decorations, trees, garlands, wreaths. As a kid I use to LOVE making paper chains! And of course, although I rarely get them these days, I LOVE the presents. I love sending cards. And although some are religious, and although I’ve been a total hypocrite and been to church a few years back to enjoy them, I LOVE Xmas carols and Xmas songs. We have a church not 5 minutes walk away, and we went in 2005 for the carol service. But it was really lovely. It’s a non-domination church, and it was quite liberal (as churches go), not doing lots of preaching and stuff. It was a really nice service, and we all sang carols. It was lovely. As much as I love Xmas though, there are things that are overbearing about it. The compulsion to buy presents. The more expensive, the better. And the relentless ad campaigns that go with it. I mean, it’s in full swing on TV (and all other media) now. The supermarkets started filling their shelves with Xmas themed food weeks ago. I haven’t been in a supermarket for about 6 weeks (last visit, early October), but the last time I went, there was already stock on the shelf. The campaigns on TV will just get more and more manic. Soon the Xmas songs will start (mostly in shops and that, so I have been spared so far, as I really don’t get out much these days), and so by the time Xmas day comes, you’ve heard “White Christmas” at least 50 times (subliminally, and non-subliminally), Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” about 100 times, and the new favourite for “playing to death”… The Pogues “Fairytale of New York” what feels like 500 times, but is in reality probably only 150 times!! Supermarkets start to look like we’re heading for The Blitz at around December 18, and if you’ve missed something off the shopping list and don’t remember it until Xmas eve, you might just want to write out your last will and testament before heading off to the supermarket for that last vital thing, because you may just die there, waiting in the queue! One last thing that I use to hate about Xmas as a kid. The only thing in fact. Australia. I HATED living in Australia at Xmas. Xmas in the northern hemisphere looked SSOO lovely. And all the stories whilst growing up were all northern hemisphere biased. All the little things like Santa arriving by coming down the chimney! HEEEELLLLOOOO…no house in Oz that *I* ever knew of had a chimney. How was Santa ever going to leave our presents? Break in through a window? Then of course there was the sleigh and the reindeer. Rudolph with his shiny red nose. Not because it was minus 10 degrees in Oz, but because it was more like bloody 25 degrees on Xmas eve NIGHT! Silent Night? Silent night…on a tropical evening in Sydney?! Doubt it!! The one nice thing that Oz has for Xmas though is Carols by Candlelight…outdoors! That’s nice. Although, again, traditional carols are a bit northern hemisphere/wintery themed. Very odd to sing “Winter Wonderland” on a summer’s evening in 25 degree heat! I really do love my winter Xmases though. They are the best. So, happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it. Xmas, the steam train, moves ever closer.