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Niamh Greene: Jingle hell... why have we all lost our Christmas spirit this year?


Stressed Christmas shopper.

Stressed Christmas shopper.

Stressed Christmas shopper.

It's Christmas time, which means that we should all be feeling warm and fuzzy right about now. Santa Claus is coming to town and goodwill to all men prevails, right?

Wrong, I'm afraid.

It might have started with that Black Friday nonsense, when some people seemed perfectly willing to enter mortal combat with close friends and even family to nab cut-price TVs and other bargains, but this year I think it's been more Jingle hell than Jingle bells.

Where's the festive spirit? You know the kind I mean, when everyone is jolly and the world seems magical.

Instead of good cheer, there's an air of seething impatience and simmering bad temper. It's like the Grinch really has stolen Christmas.


I first noticed this phenomenon in a city centre department store last week.

Happily pottering about trying to choose presents, I was woefully unprepared for the aggressive mentality of some of my fellow shoppers, and this before noon on a week day. For starters, I was tutted at impatiently in the crowded cosmetics hall because I couldn't decide between a body lotion or a face serum in under thirty seconds.

Later, in the restaurant, I was shocked to witness a heated exchange between two customers when one accused the other of deliberately knocking over her shopping bags.

There was more uproar when a diner, furious because the last of the daily turkey special was gone, argued with an exhausted waitress.

Then, in the ladies bathroom, I casually remarked to the woman next to me in the line that it seemed very busy for a Thursday and she sniffed frostily at me and turned her head.

What was going on?

The last time I remember people being so horribly rude was back in the Celtic Tiger days when everyone got far too big for their (snow) boots. Is it happening again?

Is arrogance rearing its ugly head once more because some people have extra cash in their pockets and they have decided that good manners no longer count?

And since when did making polite chit chat become so uncool and passé anyway?

Is it so much better to remain in sullen silence when in a lift or a bathroom queue instead of smiling amicably at a stranger or even - shock, horror - saying something?

Surely it's OK to do that at this time of year?

Perhaps the only positive thing about the recession was that people began to make time for each other. It'd be such a terrible shame if that feel-good factor disappeared all over again now the economy is improving.


I'm not saying we all have to link arms and sing Auld Lang Syne out loud together, or even kiss each other under the mistletoe unless we feel like it, but can't we muster up a little festive spirit?

Ironically, we all sigh, misty-eyed, over those soppy Christmas ads that try to capture the essence of the season on screen, so why don't we actually try to capture it for ourselves in real life?

It really doesn't take much effort. A little chat with the person next to you as you both stand waiting in the gift wrap line, maybe.

Or a shared smile with someone queuing at the jewellery counter.

If we can't connect with people at this time of year then what hope is there for the next twelve months?

After all, the Christmas spirit has really nothing to do with what you buy people and everything to do with how you treat them.

So let's pull up our tinsel-trimmed socks, stress less about our endless to do-list and try being a little nicer to everyone.