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Colin Farquhar: It’s officially OK to put your Christmas tree up and start feeling festive cheer

Once the council has put up its Christmas decorations, it's fine to follow suit and get in the spirit.

Aberdeen's Christmas tree being setup at the Castlegate
Aberdeen's Christmas tree, gifted from its twin city of Stavanger in Norway, being setup at the Castlegate. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Well, it’s almost that time of year again.

How many more sleeps until Santa slings himself down your chimney? Whizzing away a few presents lighter, and maybe a swift half or a wee nip heavier, depending on what you’ve chosen to leave out.

Even in late November, I’m finding myself very ready to slide into my Christmas stocking. This weekend, I’m going to try and do most of my shopping – although, be warned: the elves at British Gas have told me I need a new boiler, so there might be more lumps of coal being handed out this year than normal.

It’s not quite December yet, but I’ve already seen a few trees up around town, and we’ve just put our own fairy lights out in the garden. I always think that anything happening before the 12th month of the year is slightly early. The moment Aberdeen City Council switches on the Union Street lights is probably the absolute earliest I’d expect anyone to put decorations up – once the boss has done his, it’s OK to follow suit.

I’m still getting settled into my new house, so debate rages around the best way to dress the place for the festive period. The number of times we asked each other “real or plastic?” about the tree, I wondered if I was in an episode of Love Island. We eventually plumped for real, and picked one up from Ikea.

Real tree or fake tree?

Although a proper tree may feel like a mistake while I pick pine needles out from every crevice of the house, as well as the car, myself and my other half, it does look a treat. There’s also not a huge amount of storage in the house for a segmented plastic tree once we get to January, as anyone who lives in a 19th century Aberdonian terrace will know.

I tell myself that, next year, I’ll properly figure out which of the two options is the most environmentally friendly, and stick with that for good. The plastic trees our parents had will probably still stand come the end of the earth, but at least I’ll only have to buy one once.

The real ones have to be replanted, regrown, reshipped and then recycled into my brown bin. I’m not quite sure yet that it’ll fit, and Santa can’t afford the tools I’d need to cut it into bits.

Ice skaters in festive costumes on the ice rink at Aberdeen's Christmas Market, which has returned in 2023
Aberdeen’s Christmas Village (complete with ice rink) is back. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

Speaking of replanted, regrown and reshipped – Aberdeen’s Christmas Village is back. Although it’s easy to find the moaners on Facebook, it definitely brightens up the city centre. I’ll be making sure I get my skates on and go to the ice rink for a turn before December 25. There’s hardly a bonnier setting for it than in front of Marischal College.

Now that I live closer to the city centre, being able to go into town, do some Christmas shopping and then have a sit down under the stars with some mulled wine will be a delight. The more folk who pop along to see it, the better the atmosphere will be, and the more local businesses will benefit.

All we need now is a wee bit of snow

Going to see a show last week really made me feel the Christmas spirit. We’re absolutely spoiled for choice this year, with Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, and Rapunzel on at HMT, Tivoli and Aberdeen Arts Centre respectively.

Scottish Opera’s The Barber of Seville at His Majesty’s was an absolute triumph, and some Figaro pudding was just what I needed before panto season. The crowd on opening night had a blast, with rapturous applause by the curtain.

Opera is brilliant, but is also, frankly, quite mad. There aren’t as many opportunities to shout: “Oh, no, it isn’t” as at the panto, but the audience was in a participatory and generous mood, with lots of laughs and congratulations. It has properly put me in the mood.

David Stout and Samuel Dale Johnson in the Barber of Seville.
David Stout and Samuel Dale Johnson in The Barber of Seville. Image: Scottish Opera/James Glossop

All of these little things together are filling me full of Christmas cheer as we get toward the end of the year. All I need now is a wee bit of snow and I’ll be quite content.

Meanwhile, you need to finish off your letters to Santa, decide who you’re having round for Christmas dinner, and whether or not you’re going to go to your work’s Christmas do. Don’t get as drunk as last year, mind!

I’m having mine on December 15, but I’m in Dundee, and no one in Aberdeen will see the lunchtime gins catch up with me by five o’clock…

Colin Farquhar works as a creative spaces manager and film programmer in the north-east culture sector