Why do traditional places make the best Christmases?

When you think about it, nearly all of our happy Christmas clichés depend on traditional towns, walkable streets, beautiful houses and vernacular homes with (let’s be honest) slightly antiquated approaches to keeping warm. Here are six components of the traditional Christmas. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy these in the deep countryside, the wide suburb or the gleaming towers of megalopolis. You clearly can. However, much of the physics only works in traditional places.

  1. Christmas markets. Is there anything more depressing than the plasticised faux Germanic Christmas market stranded in a shopping mall or a windy and oversized plaza? Clearly, for optimum enjoyment and aesthetics a Christmas market needs to be in a town square surrounded by steeply gabled roofs and deeply wood beamed Harry Potterish houses.
  2. Christmas lights. You need a lot of these to line a suburb. The best Christmas lights span the street, be that the high street in a traditional market town or the Edwardian baroque of London’s Regent Street.
  3. Father Christmas. Try entering a house via an air-conditioning unit or a heat extractor fan and see how far you get! The most Santa Claus friendly heating systems are clearly wide chimneys before the invention of all those troubling Georgian hob grates or Victorian draft prevention plates.
  4. Elves. As is well known, elves live in the basement of cobblers and tailors. Don’t get distracted by all the modern Tolkien stuff about elves in forests etc.
  5. Mulled wine. Ok, you can make and consume this anywhere but for optimum effect (and to drink the most), you need to be enticed by the glühwein spicy smells of other people’s drinks as you walk down those streets or through those Christmas markets. (See point 1 above).
  6. Christmas wreaths on front doors. The best wreathes obviously line and decorate the street, readily visible to those passing by and inviting friends and neighbours to come inside for good company and good cheer.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Nicholas Boys Smith, December 2023