I Know What’s Been Missing at Christmas
Until a few years ago, Christmas spirit in the air of Vancouver seemed more palpable than it has recently.
Until a few years ago, I experienced an annual, two-week feeling of well –being, a festive glow that warmly conquered the stress and bustle of fighting the shopping rush. It was something in the air. Whether it was snowy or drab old west coast rainy, it just seemed festive.
Decorated downtown windows; Christmas lights on buildings, in trees, even strewn on construction cranes. People bustling, wearing scarves and doing all the Christmassy things people are accused of doing in carol after carol. Snow crunching kids bunching, things blinking bright red and green, people rushing home with their treasures and bringing figgy pudding to people who won’t go until they get some.
The glow of being finished one’s school or work for the year and having just a bit of shopping to do before relaxing with a glass of wine or egg nog at home and hearth and reveling in Christmas celebration.
It was a wonderful feeling of Christmas, and it was on the streets, in the air as soon as I walked along Christmas streets.
I haven’t felt that way lately. I’m going through the motions.
What’s been missing the last few years? Why do I feel less
Is it simply that I’m getting older and annually more blasé about the whole Christmas thing? No, I’ve been old for years, but I still appreciate the Christmas spirit. Maybe the economy is distracting me. No, I don’t quite know what “the economy” means and even if I did, it’s not noticeably sapping me of seasonal good cheer. Is it global warming that erodes whatever Christmas spirit there is “in the air “ of late?
No. It’s none of these things – but I now know what it is.
It came to me this afternoon as I glumly walked into Coquitlam Centre. It was quiet.
It’s the bells. The sleigh bells. They’re gone.
The big, jingling set of sleigh bells that for as long as I can remember, percussed and punctuated the Christmas air are gone.
The, beautiful Dasher and Dancer bells, cheerfully shaken by the Salvation Army volunteer in the red suit, standing by the big, plastic, money holding orb hanging by chains from a red metal frame, with a five –dollar bill inside to “seed” the pot; – they’re gone.
The big, jangling bells that evoked Santa’s sleigh and reindeer. Gone.
The bells which helped make the streets feel unanimously Christmassy to all who walked them during the Christmas season. Gone.
The sleigh bells are gone. Gone from the air and the ethos of Vancouver Christmas.
Apparently, the poignant, Christmassy jingle of sleigh bells was “too noisy” for two or three grinchy types, who complained to the “Sally Ann” about the “racket” made by the bells. Their humbuggery apparently allowed them to ignore the classical contribution the bells made to the Christmas spirit of our streets.
Ever the sensitive organization, the Salvation Army, several years ago, responding to the spectacularly small number of complaints, replaced their wonderful sleigh bells. In their place, they issued small, wimpy bells. Salvation Army volunteers now shake tiny unobtrusive bells, the kind that might adorn seasonal slippers, or the underwear of an office party – goer.
And so, instead of contributing to the feeling of Christmas as they did for so many years, the Salvation Army “bells” now merely damn the season with faint praise
To me, this shortsighted narrow – mindedness evokes Basil Fawlty. When asked by his wife to “turn off that racket! “, he replied,
“That’s Brahm’s Fifth Racket, Sybil Darling…”
Please, let’s all wear pink t-shirts or adorn our bumpers with ribbons saying “support our bells” or any other campaign to encourage the Salvation Army to bring back the sleigh bells, the traditional herald of west coast Christmasses.