Melanie Morris: It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas
FESTIVE FRISSONS: Forget your troubles, it's the best holiday of year
I got my first festive frisson yesterday, when passing the Mansion House on Dawson Street. The building was wrapped in a massive red ribbon, there was a huge tree alongside, studded with tiny white lights and beside that, the cute-out Living Crib of farm animals was grazing, snorting and snoozing in their wooden stables.
It's a sight that, year after year, makes the hair on the back of my neck spring to attention as happy tears of nostalgia threaten to spill forth. Gosh, I'm such a sap.
This is the time of the year when real life sleeps, or at least takes second place to home, friends and family, and right now, that 'silly season' is rapidly approaching.
We had a slow start, thanks mostly to bad weather and national economic catastrophes, but not even the most pessimistic of outlooks can deter Ireland's festive spirit once we get going.
The frenzied shopping has started in town, as everyone piles in to our city and the surrounding suburban centres to blitz the Christmas shopping list, grab something sparkly for the office party, and stock up on treats to indulge ourselves with over the coming weeks. Soon, friends will be returning from abroad to celebrate the holidays at home.
Some will have brand new sparklers glistening from their third-finger-left hand, which adds to the already frantic rounds of lunches, gatherings and house visits.
I remember when I lived in London in the early Nineties, how I would count down from early January, until I could return home and get Christmas celebrations under way back in Dublin.
Those were in the days before Ryanair put a damper on luggage allowances, and I'd arrive home with bags and packages hanging from every limb. No sooner in the door, and I'd be out again, desperate to hit the city-centre hotspots to see who was home, and who was up to what (or rather whom!).
When I'd return back to the UK after New Year, I'd be broke and silent, mostly because I'd have lost my voice -- an excellent indicator of the time I'd just had.
So now, while I'm older, I'm not wiser; and I still relish the month of December far more than I do summer holidays. These are the days when I welcome tradition and immerse myself in it.
My tree and door wreath have been up since December 1 and my car radio is permanently tuned to Christmas FM.
Last night I sat down to wrap presents (glittery gold paper, lots of thick purple satin ribbon) while chowing down on mince pies and watching Nigella ooze over her own festive fancies. Last year, I was almost arrested for kerb crawling around Ballybough, when all I was doing was a late-night drive around, to admire the illuminated ho-ho-homes.
Undeterred, I'll be heading out again in 2010, most likely at the weekend, to see how this year's decorations compare.
And while, baby, it's cold outside (both meteorlogically and economically), it can wait while I head to St Patrick's Cathedral for carols, and let day turn to night at those annual lunches that go on way too late as they gather momentum (and numbers).
I love that the country grinds to a halt around now and we can take a breather. As a self-professed workaholic, this is the only time of year I actually relax, safe in the knowledge that the office is shut and that the world is on a go-slow.
We're all cruising in a glorious, tinsel-trimmed boat which will, no doubt dock in troubled waters soon, but I'm not thinking about that right now. No way Jose. Not until the last of the Quality Street have been polished off and the first of the Creme Eggs appear.