Merry Christmas, shoppers!

09-11-2005

This year we have had a glorious and mild autumn with few signs of the winter to come. So it seems so much the more strange to see Christmas trees, Santa Claus and jingling bells here in the heart of Prague. Christmas decorations are already going up in shops around the city, and the prize for milking the Yuletide season for all its worth has to go to the Flora Palace shopping centre in the district of Vinohrady. Ever since mid-October it has been decked out in its full seasonal regalia. Alexander Ohrn went down there to see how people feel about ever earlier arrival of Christmas.

I'm here talking to Bara, who works in Flora. What do you think about the Christmas decorations here?

"I think it's really bad because they've come with it so early."

Does it make you think of Christmas?

"It's a commercial pressure."

And you think it makes people start Christmas shopping earlier and earlier?

"No, I think it makes me and people working here depressed, and other people too."

Do you think that putting up Christmas decorations so early takes away the excitement and the magic of the pre-Christmas weeks?

"I think the magic of Christmas is almost lost in this country at this time. For me Christmas is just spending money. But for me the real Christmas is the one particular day. That's the 24th December in the evening, the time that I spend with my family. That's all."

Do you think all this threatens tradition?

"It's just pressure - Oh Christmas, I need to buy this and this and this, I need to tidy the flat. This doesn't make people feel Christmas in the middle of October."

I also asked Jara, who works in the office building above Flora, what she felt about the Christmas decorations.

"Well, the first time I saw it a few days ago I was completely shocked. I just felt - wow, Christmas decorations in October, that's really not normal. I just don't appreciate it because it takes away all the feeling of Christmas."

After hearing Jara and Bara's views, I decided to go and talk to the management of Palac Flora. Sarka Buskova, the marketing director, told me why they had decided to start with the Christmas decorations in mid-October.

"The reason for this is simple. There are a lot of shopping centres, but not that many companies that install the decorations. Our choice was either to start the installation in the middle of October or just before Christmas. Just before Christmas would be the wrong commercial decision, so we decided to go for October."

What do you think people feel about it?

"I'm sure there are some people who are very unhappy about this. At the same time I think that our Christmas decoration is not so Christmas-orientated. It's a special 'winter decoration' as I call it. It's not like other shopping centres. What we have is green and lights. We don't have the real Czech traditional decoration.

"Christmas, I think, no longer brings that uncommercial feeling - having days off and spending time with the family. Nowadays it's very commercial, so the thinking in general about Christmas - and it doesn't have to be Christmas decoration in our shopping centre - is very negative."

09-11-2005