On the fourth day of blogmas, I give you… a snowy little snapshot of the city I call home.
Glasgow at Christmas has a very special place in my heart- it has done for as long as I can remember. The seasonal shift, to me, started when we were wrapped up in coats and hats and bundled along to Glasgow Green to see the fireworks on Guy Fawkes’ Night. From then on my birthday would come and go and before I knew it, the lights were coming on. Ever since I was a baby, my mum and dad would take me into town to see the Christmas lights go on in George Square. I later learned this was because they didn’t have any money, it was free, and I was entertained by shiny things (no change there).
Still, I always remember it being such a magical event. The nativity scene, the lights, the huge tree in the middle with the little cartoon Rosie and Jim. People spilled over from the square, onto every side street. Some local celebrity would flip a switch and suddenly everyone would gasp, and clap, and the Christmas season would officially begin.
Later there’d be ice rinks, carousels, soulless white tents (now thankfully retired) and German-style markets and the lights began to trickle through the rest of the city. When it gets dark at 4pm (if you’re lucky), those little pops of colour can help cheer up the bleakest winter evening. It gets super cold even in the city centre, but that’s what hats and scarves are for, right?
Now matter how old I am, or how bitter and cynical I might get, I’ll never not be in awe of Christmas lights. Maybe there’s something calming about them, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the fairytale glow, the aspect of otherworldliness that they add. It makes the season seem a little bit removed from the rest of the year. It’s usually at the most welcome time too- right at the end, when you’re fed up or you’ve had enough. It’s been a tough ol’ 2016. A little glimmer can sometimes be just the thing you need to say “it’s OK”.
On my birthday this year, we took a wander along to Glasgow Loves Christmas at George Square as we’d missed the lights being switched on. We took a wander through the market, more reminiscent of the German original than its St Enoch equivalent. I breathed in the sugary smell of sweet pastries and the unmistakable tang of mulled wine. The tree stood on the other side, all proud and tall, with cascading lights in festive colours. I piled all my change into the little box for the children’s fund, lamented the loss of the swinging bell lights (seriously, they’ve been there forever), thought about how it was the last time we’d visit the lights just the two of us. Next year we’ll be a little family of three, making Christmas memories with our li’l bean the same as my parents did with me.
I remember being taken to House of Fraser, Princes Square and Lewis’s (now Debenhams) to see the lights when I was little. A lot of the reason I love this time of year is that it takes me back to that time- I still marvel at the lights in the same way. It reminds me of when I didn’t have anything else to care about.
Coming from a new town, thirteen miles outside of the city centre, there wasn’t much going on. There weren’t any fancy department stores with decorated windows, no rolling high street with lights streaming from end to end. It was all just houses built around a town centre, all very suburban and domestic and safe. Glasgow seemed so huge and bustling and I loved everything about it.
This city really does go all out with decorations in even the most seemingly mundane places. Since I can’t really walk much I’ve been getting the train in and out of Central Station every day. I mean, it’s more aesthetic than Queen Street, but it’s still a train station… apart from its iconic clock. It’s long been a meeting point for friends, family and loved ones, and it even got into the Hallowe’en spirit last year. This Christmas the station’s rafters are adorned with giant, glistening snowflakes- definitely a welcome sight when I’m barely awake and have a full shift ahead of me.
The difference that some decorations and a tree can make is unreal. It just adds a little glitter of a morning, which is never a bad thing- right? I absolutely hate commuting. When I lived in Cumbernauld, I was at the mercy of irregular (at best) public transport and felt as though my life revolved around it. Since moving to Glasgow I’ve barely had to use it. Now that I’m under orders from the physiotherapist (and Ally) to calm it with walking everywhere, I’ve opted for the train instead. If you have to visit somewhere every day, it’s nice if it’s imbued with a little cheer. Every year, the tree in Central Station raises awareness for the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice’s Light Up A Life campaign too. That’s another thing about Glasgow that always gets me- our generosity. In work we’ve been raising money and putting together care packages for people without, and there are so many similar drives across the city. At a time when it’s easy to be selfish, it’s pretty heart-warming.
Every year there’s a new tradition or event to remember and it’s testament to how much there is going on in this city. For the last few years, my mum and I have made our annual pilgrimage to the Glasgow Film Theatre for It’s A Wonderful Life. The GFT is Glasgow’s oldest independent cinema and it has a real old world charm- and I’m not just biased because I worked and volunteered there on several occasions. I doubt I’ll be able to go this year (I find my cushy sofa uncomfortable never mind a cinema seat), although it’s mid-renovation so I’m excited to see what plans they have for next year.
I’ve lived in the city centre before but never fully appreciated what was just beyond it until last year. When we moved to the south side it was easier to find new parts of the city to explore and what better time to do so than winter? Everything’s got a frosty tinge, everything has a little more magic about it.
We moved in autumn last year, just as the leaves were turning. At the time I worked mostly night shifts and found myself a bit lost for company during the day. I took to wandering around my new neighbourhood, and the ins and outs of Queen’s Park. From then on, the seasons progressed and I watched the leaves fall and the cold air creep in. The paths I’d trodden so many times became lost under snow and I had to rediscover them once again.
Even the same route you walk hundreds of times can become wondrous when it’s lit with a festive hue. I love the cleanness of fresh snow, and it never fails to amaze me how much difference a little light dusting can make.
Last year we woke up to a whiteout- a rare treat on the outskirts never mind the city. As the morning went on it got heavier, the sky was thick and white. The whole day had a strange vibe about it. I can’t quite put my finger on what, exactly. It was almost like a little bubble, a one-off, a free pass to take the day for ourselves. Ally and I were both off so we wandered through Glasgow Green and took a cultural nosey around the People’s Palace. We jumped through patches of snow that didn’t have any footprints yet and stopped off for some of Glasgow’s finest veggie scran at The 13th Note to warm us up before going home.
I remember thinking how the day had felt like a gift, like it just existed between the two of us. By this point Christmas had passed, December had steamed along and it felt like things were taking a little pause before rolling on into the new year. So the year that followed might not have been the best- to put it mildly- but it was a little reminder not to take my surroundings for granted. To not let myself get so bogged down in the every day that I forget to take stock of what’s around me. It’s something I’m admittedly quick to do. It makes me feel fed up, and claustrophobic. Now that the season’s rolling around again, maybe it’s something I should try harder to keep in mind.