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When I lived in Bologna, it was the Galleria in via Farini which would set things going. First came the large fir branches, then the lights, and finally Christmas music coming from the radio.
When I was in London, the illuminations in Oxford street would be lit up from mid-October, certainly more for the tourists than the Londoners themselves.
The little girl in me wants to believe that at Christmas time every city is trying to make itself look more welcoming in preparation for the cold months ahead. In other words, it seems an almost maternal way of showing unconditional love and support. And there’s a real need for it, especially as it gets darker sooner.
The adult in me, however, insists on reminding myself that it’s all a marketing strategy: the sooner you start urging customers to buy Christmas tree decorations, the wreath for the front door, presents for nieces and nephews and a new dress for the office Christmas party, the better it is. So, shop windows compete over who has the best lights, smiling at you behind beautiful wreaths. And they are more noticeable, especially as it’s getting darker sooner.
Maybe so, but this strategy works exceedingly well: the temperature outside is still twenty degrees but I’ve already started enjoying my hot chocolate to-go as I stroll along under the Christmas lights.
Do I need that velvet miniskirt? Possibly not, but I could count it as an early present to myself, or so I say as I enter the shop.
In Italy, Turin is possibly the city with the most dazzling Christmas lights. It’s almost time for the Luci d’Artista, which have brightened up the evening stroll and the journey home of thousands of people for over twenty years. They have no commercial purpose – except to show that street lights are there for the common good.