Lent began over a week ago. For those who don't know what Lent is, it's the period of 40 days before Easter which has long been used by the Christian church as a time to take stock of your life, especially the spiritual elements, and reflect on your future. It's probably better known to most people as a time in which something is given up. When I was a child Lent was quite a severe time in which you were expected to really do something effective in terms of giving up things. Nowadays, many people take the giving up aspect fairly lightly, and give up things that really weren't greatly necessary in the first place.
Still that's better than taking no notice of the period at all.
There are a number of traditions associated with the Lent/Easter period. On the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the church celebrated Shrove Tuesday (related to the word 'shriving' or ridding yourself of things). Shrove Tuesday was also known as Pancake Tuesday because pancakes were a feature of the day.
The first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, is so named because on that day a cross-shaped daub of ash is put on your forehead with the words, remember that thou are dust, and unto dust thou shalt return. (Although they probably use more modern language in most places now.)
The next really big occasion in Lent is Palm Sunday, which celebrates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a donkey, being given great acclamation by the crowd who broke palm branches off the trees and waved them - a sign that he was a king. Palm Sunday comes a week before Easter Sunday.
And the Friday before Easter Sunday is known as Good Friday, in spite of the fact that the day commemorates the day Jesus was crucified. Now the tradition related to Good Friday is that it's the day on which we have hot cross buns - the cross being of considerable significance. So it was something of an irritation to me to see hot cross buns in the supermarket yesterday - when Lent has barely started.
Which brings me to the point of all this discussion. Retailers, it seems to me, are guilty in this current society of being great underminers, the diabolos of traditions. The selling of hot cross buns on all sorts of days of the year is one example. The determination of many retailers to push for being able to be open on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day is another example. For some reason these business people think they're missing out if they're closed for three days of the year. How do they think shops used to manage in the past when hardly anything was open all weekend, every weekend? Yet plenty of businesses thrived in those times.
I don't hold much with Santa Claus as a tradition, but it really gets up my nose when the whole idea is used as a tool for retailers: there are Santa Clauses everywhere, which is not only confusing to children, but crazy in general. Do we need a Santa in every shop? Some bewildered children must wonder if he goes hopping from one shop to another as they hold their mother's hand and enter one store after another.
Okay, rant over - pretty much. I don't think there's going to be a change to the way retailers behave until people stop thinking there's actually such a thing as retail therapy. And that ain't going to be tomorrow.