Says Louise Wyllie, a scriptwriter and author in the Highlands...
Christmas for me here, living in the Highlands, has yet to become too commercialised. I live in Badenoch and Strathspey, a population of approximately 14,000 inhabiting small towns and villages, which are scattered along River Spey at the foot of the Cairngorm Mountains. We don’t need to troop to a city centre to see reindeer – they live on Cairngorm Mountain all-year-round. We don’t need to attend themed snow balls as it snows here for a quarter of the year. We don’t need to shop for Christmas trees as they grow everywhere here. Thirty miles away, Inverness – whilst the fastest growing city in Europe – has only a population of approximately 80,000, a High Street you could spit from one end to the other and a small shopping mall, so it’s hard to get excited about Christmas shopping on a grand scale! For me, Christmas is a community affair and consists of helping the village shop and Boat of Garten Post Office decorate their windows; local people helping to make the pensioners’ free Christmas dinner happen, single people coming together to celebrate Christmas; a wee dram at the Post Office; a wee Gluhwein from the mobile fish and chip van and, if you’re lucky, a slice of lemon with your fish; carol singing under the pine tree on the green; signing up for a local forest wreath-making workshop; an afternoon at the local amateur panto, visiting Aviemore on Christmas Eve with grandchildren to see the local ‘home-knitted’ Christmas parade created by parents and children from the Aviemore Community Children’s Group (they parade through the village and end with a church blessing and carol singing at the local hotel before a firework display takes place, thanks to Aviemore Business Association). Christmas Day is spent with family however, we are mindful of the many workers in the hospitality business who have to work serving Christmas dinners to tourists escaping commercialism at this time of the year. Many families living here are subject to a family member missing but realise too that their livelihoods depend on this tourism. The true time for them is after the festivities when a party outing on the steam train is tradition – it’s called ‘Get Steamin’ and it’s not to be missed! Living in this area there are few retail outlets other than the outdoor shop flogging everything for cold weather all-year-round. Little chance then of being swamped with Christmas dressed windows other than a sprig of holly stuck in a pom-pom ski hat. The only influences over us all to buy Christmas goods is the bombardment of Christmas TV advertising but hopefully we are all too busy baking our own Christmas cakes, making Christmas costumes for the
We don’t need to troop into the city centre to see reindeer – they live here all-year-round!
parade, shaking a tin for charity at the carol singing, making a wreath and having a drink with friends, to watch adverts. Oh and a toast too, to absent friends, the boys who are contracted to cut Christmas trees down in Denmark and those that head for the Alpine slopes coaching snow sports and working the ski chalets for other’s Christmases. No, I don’t think we are too commercialised here... yet!