It was with subversive joy that I was able to text my best friend on 18 August and say "the Christmas Room is open in Selfridges". I love Christmas, but in particular, I love the run-up to it, which can almost never be long enough. Post-Boxing Day, I take all my decorations down and move on to something else.
On Facebook, there's a group called "Christmas celebrations should begin in December and not before", which no doubt mimics the sentiments of millions of people in the real world - but I'm not one of them. My boyfriend tried to stop our daughter watching the Tom and Jerry "Night Before Christmas" episode recently, as it should, he said, be "saved for Christmas", while I tried to find all her Christmas books to get her in the mood. It is November, after all. On the website I co-run, I started the Christmas Club forum in September and it immediately got besieged.
Christmas is the time of year that department stores can really sparkle. I love the way you enter them with December sunshine outside, but by the time you leave it's all dark and romantic; and I like the feel of the crisp winter air that slaps you after the hot stuffiness of the shop. I am addicted to the build-up to Christmas, and all the crappy Christmas gift guides that fall out of magazines at this time of year. And I want to buy every magazine that promises to give me a good, stress-free countdown to Christmas lunch. (Nigella seems to be a large part of our Christmases these days, which is no bad thing.)
And who can resist the glitter and shine that's creeping into our clothes at this time of year? A bugle-beaded rosette on a cardigan here, patent Christmas-coloured pumps there. Tights shot through with iridescent thread and never mind the speckles of reflective dust that accompany every piece of make-up produced in the last three months of the year. It's all crap, and will look completely out of place come January, but who cares? If you save all this gloriousness for just December, you have only three weeks to enjoy it, which just isn't long enough.
The shop window displays are an essential part of Christmas. I even love Harrods at this time of year. By the time you read this, all the stores will have unveiled their Christmas windows. Selfridges (the windows of which I found magical as a child) is all jewels and magical forests with feathers scattered on the floors. Debenhams focuses on a "traditional" family Christmas (I shan't make a cynical comment here); although its London store has puppets (made from soft toys that you can buy, but in-store they won't be puppets). Liberty's theme is White Christmas. Liberty has good dec orations for sale, and some great stockings. And if you like traditional stockings, look at www. charlottecotblankets.com for some beautiful ones handmade in Norwich.