London takes holiday spirit to the next level


Credit: Johnson

Derek Thurber

Credit: Johnson
Credit: Johnson

Santa Clause is real. And he lives in London.

I used to think large-scale Christmas spirit existed only within the commercialized borders of the United States. I was very, very wrong.

London is the most festive city I have ever seen when it comes to Christmas, and it’s not even half way through November yet. I don’t know how such cheer could be possible without the presence of Santa Clause.

This all started on Halloween, which is a similarly festive holiday in London, but in many ways different from the United States. For instance, there is no trick o’ treating. But there certainly are pubs and clubs and many a drunk werewolf, witch or vampire wandering the streets.

I had prepared for little to no celebration of Halloween. Instead, I found that it was an important occasion, but maybe not in the best way. The pubs are packed every night of the week in London, but Halloween defined a whole new level of raucous drunken English spirit: a spirit that I found more violent than perhaps comfortable or fun.

But the real remarkable thing was to wake up the morning after a night in spider web, pumpkin and bat decorated pubs to find everything seemingly magically transformed to great lights, red ornaments and green trees for Christmas.

Overnight the city transformed physically and mentally to a new and much, much more joyous spirit. Suddenly the grocery stores sold candy canes, the pubs were carrying holiday beers and the streets were covered in a new glow.

A short walk down Regent Street and Oxford Circus revealed great holiday window displays and magical Christmas deals. And the lights: oh the lights!: have transformed a simple walk through London into a magical journey through Christmas festivity.

These lights really appeared a few days after Halloween, on Nov. 3 during a great ceremony. For those who didn’t hear about it, it was the world premier of Disney’s “A Christmas Carol,” which was being shown in three giant theaters in Leicester square at the same time. But the real festivity was before that screening when they had a three-part Christmas festival.

It was hosted in three locations: Regent Street with Colin Firth, Oxford Circus with Jim Carrey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral with Bob Hoskins. It included a simultaneous switching on of all the Christmas lights in London.

This was followed by the city of London singing “Silent Night” to break the world record for the largest group of people caroling: which of course we did.

This massive spirit has not dwindled since then. The city is ablaze with festive attitudes and every day adds a new sight, a new decoration, a new place to enjoy. Spending Christmas time in London is everything it should be.

It is like taking a trip to that warm and cozy place in your soul where nothing can touch you. The streets evoke such emotions and history as to create the most wonderful and pure spirit. It is a spirit that the United States could learn more from.

It is obvious from the moment one steps outside the door in London that Christmas is not about cheesy decorations, big presents and annoying families. It is about bringing cheer to the stranger on the street, loving your family and sitting by the fire and making peace with yourself.

If Santa brings big toys to children in the United States, then he brings love, peace, happiness and spirit to London. It’s hard not to fall in love with such a spirit.