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The volunteers have been busy at the Visitor Centre supporting staff in their annual act of festooning. From hand-made paper chains to floral fascinations – all in a days work for the staff. A tasteful ensemble in a quiet and peaceful setting.

When we were children most of us were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time creating the excitement that went with the occasion – a few nuts, an apple and an orange and perhaps a small toy! No special events in those days.

Now, as the older generation in the time of plenty we can be excited by the festive events seen all around us, and appreciate the simple activities played out at Ashridge with the children’s trail, the the children’s crafts, Santa Paws and pudding walk , and the Jingle ponies. The V C staff have been planning these event for months and it is a credit to their creative skills in staging ever more inventive attractions year on year. The recent winter weather may have appeared festive but it has meant the cancellation of some of the events and resulted in a reduced footfall at the V C.

In the wider world some say the season is soulless and abrasive – Christmas consumerism has hi-jacked the reason for the season. We are bombarded with the need to buy – its good for the country’s GDP and shopping keeps the nation happy! It all starts with Black Friday in late November and is then ramped up by the media with their emotional blackmail. You know the approach – if you don’t buy this or donate to that you are a pariah at Christmas – Christmas humbug! Private Eye magazine had it spot on some fifty years ago, when they wrote – ‘Lo, a great profit has come over the land.’

Now there is the piped music. There is nothing joyous about being made to listen to endless Christmas music against your will, in some of the public spaces you visit, even if you are a Christian. The point of this incessant music is to install a sense of discipline to a higher power – the unfortunate face of late-capitalism.

So thank you to the Visitor Centre for your message of peace and goodwill, and to our volunteers for their unhurried giving of time – the real reasons for Christmas. And what of next year – a large Norwegian spruce would be nice to rival the tree in Trafalgar Square!

A very Merry Christmas to us all.

Credit to Steven Thrasher for some observations.

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