Wednesday, 23 December 2015

of Christmas sweather and cheer

After getting off the plane, I walked towards the exit, feeling slightly off. I was ready for the rain; instead the sun wass shining over Dublin.

While working over my weather confusion, I spotted him, walking in the opposite direction, towards me. In a dark blue ocean of stockinette stitches, a reindeer with googly eyes and a red pompon nose was staring at me.

In that very moment, weather debate went out of the window (where it should righteously be, to be fair), and the brain jumped from a replay of infamous "Bridget Jones's diary" scene to a less dignified “WTF?!!!?"

It wasn't the last. It was the first of an outrageously long list of ugly Christmas sweaters.
I didn't have to wait that long for the second one to show itself up: the guy at the bus ticket counter was proudly sporting a red sweater covered in silver sparkling stars and two candy canes crossed over one another as a medieval coat of arms. Twenty minutes later I was sure something was going on around me; I also realised that part of me would have been more comfortable if that "something" was, I don't know, an alien invasion or a zombies apocalypse.
But no, you never find a brain-eating decomposing undead when you need one, unreliable bunch!
Penguins in santa's hat, Santa with reindeer horns,snowman with fluffy carrot nose, thumbs up Jesus: you name it, I saw it.
Mostly wore by men aged 10 to 90, women went for more subtle fashion choices.

Ho ho argh!

I've been tempted more than once to stop the first bloke passing by and ask him about his fashion choices but eventually gave up. I texted Beth as she might know something about it. Then I texted Sal too: you see, my friend currently lives in Cork, I was worried. Has the Christmas sweaters epidemic reached there too? Were they in quarantine?
A French journalist (more on her in a future post) explained me it was some sort of fashion statement. Which is fine, unless you're a bit like me and Christmas sweaters are for you what Pennywise was for the Losers' Club.

The mistrust I feel for these sweaters is linked perhaps to some sort of mistrust for Christmas in general and Christmas cheers in the specific.
I like Christmas, most of it anyway: I get time off from work, I got time to do what I like and meet my friends, I can drink the Christmas beer at the birrificio, torsion’s brewery and watch rerun of Disney’s classics such as "Robin Hood", "The Jungle Book" or "The Sword in the Stone". Plus there’s some good chance my mum's made those awesome cherry under spirit she prepared some years ago and that got me drunk in the sweetest, loveliest, most hangover-free way possible.
But there’s something that still leaves me uneasy.

Some days into my Dublin holiday and I got used to the ugly sweaters. I have to say I got used to them quite easily and I refrained from any double take unless the sweater was particularly ugly. Some were actually pretty nice, I'm almost tempted to write subtly elegant (there, I wrote it).

My feet hurt (it probably has to do with the fact I’ve walked for about 16 km, according to my pedometer app), so I decided to sit down: it didn't matter where, I just wanted to rest my legs.
However, finding a seat in the middle of the last Saturday before Christmas proved a bit challenging. At the end, I've come out of the battle victorious: I perched myself over a Starbuck stool and set myself to watch people passing through the mall, while waiting for the cappuccino I ordered to cool itself down to drinkable temperature (my friends joke about the fact I’m able to gulp down very hot coffee while they’re still blowing over their own, but the barista there must have used a steel furnace to warm the frothed milk!).

There was something in the air. I noticed in Dublin that Christmas seems to be more all over the place: the decoration of the streets and the shops, the people with the ugly sweaters, the amount of Christmas movies advertised on TV and all around me, the Santa workshops in every area of the city, the news on TV reporting on people returning home for holidays with a live coverage from Dublin airport, everybody greeting you with a “merry Christmas” (but no “oh oh oh”).

I wondered whether I don’t notice Christmas in Torino any longer because I’m used to the way we celebrate it: I’m not paying attention to the Christmas lights, to the decorations in the shop, to the atmosphere around me just because they haven't changed that much in the past year. It could possibly be a part of the reason why, yet I think Christmas wasn’t like this in London either. In Dublin it really felt “alive”, even though… some common traits were obviously present there and they are the one that normally upset me the most.

Aside the sweaters, I could see lots and lots of shopping bags in the arms of different people: chavs, hipsters, young and old people, drunkards, all gathered at the temple of god Shopping.
Everybody around me seemed bent at buying something. It was a frenzy that almost got me too. How to explain me sitting in a cafe inside a mall otherwise? Shopping malls make me nervous and anxious, I just don’t like them, yet there I was.
Three, four bags in each hand, people looked determine or utterly destroyed (depending on the amount of gifts still left to purchase I guess).

Now if you speak Italian, you probably understand the lyrics of “Baffo Natale” by Elio e le Storie Tese; EelST are true masters: not only amazing musicians, they are geniuses at writing lyrics too.
The song is the story of a guy dropping into a shop at closing time on Christmas Eve, desperate for a present, declaring that he’s fine with whatever crap the shopkeeper has, a colored doorhandles, a pin holder, a coin purse, a kid holder, whatever. Form there the story evolves into a nonsense story of ‘80s pop music stars before their stardom and sporting mustaches and Christmas parties. Listening to this song makes my Christmas more bearable, because it's funny and honest in the way it describes what Christmas turns out to be in reality: there are reasons to be merry, but they are most of the time overshadowed by more pressing concerns, such as finding presents, organizing party and dinner, be at our best, no matter what.
Everytime Christmas approaches I feel myself longing for it, for the time I can spend home with family and friends, while at the same time resenting this need to celebrate in the "right" way, this need to be merry and in good company, no matter how grumpy or sad one might feel.
Yet, being in Dublin, surrounded by this sea of sweater made me feel a bit more forgiving towards this "duty of Christmas": I finished my drink, and while singing quietly "Baffo Natale" made my way through the crowd of people, resisting the temptation of getting a sweater for my sister. Maybe I should have gotten one, I bet she would have loved it.

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