Ah, don’t you just love the idea of late night Christmas shopping? The streets are lit up with twinkly lights, there is the smell of spices in the air, jolly Christmas music plays from every shop and street corner. There is time to stop and stare, and even time for a cheeky glass of something mulled in a pub with a roaring open fire. You wander around with shopping bags bursting full of perfect presents. And of course, everyone is full of Christmas good humour and bon homie.
There used to be a time (pre-kid-Cornwall-life) when my other half and I would plan a delightful late night Christmas shopping trip in London. It would start with a luscious long lunch at a cozy restaurant nearby, with just the right amount of booze to give everything a dreamy haze. Afterwards, we would venture out into the crisp Winter air, linking arms and giggling like idiots at the Christmassyness (yes that IS a word) of it all. We would dip into this shop and out of that shop, spending money we actually had without too much of a care in the world. This being pre-kids, we had a list of presents to buy as long as my nicely manicured fingernail. So we were free to splurge and indulge on ourselves and our friends and family. £50 on a scented church candle, yeah why not? £20 on one (ONE!!) Christmas tree ornament, oh go on we are worth it. This delightfully decadent experience was punctuated with little breaks in pubs and markets for drinks of gluehwien and nibbles of baklava and mince pies.
Wake up, wake up stop your Christmas dreaming right there! Add into the mix 2 kids and a move to Cornwall and it all goes completely tits up. My late night Christmas shopping trips these days go something a bit like this…
First off, they never start early. I mean, can you IMAGINE a shopping trip lasting more than a couple of hours with THE KIDS. No matter how much Christmas sparkle is chucked at that town center, there will never be enough convince my kids that this is anything more than a shopping trip. Who am I kidding, a couple of hours, I should be so lucky!
When we do finally get ourselves out of the door and into the car, we are all a little bit grumpy. This is because we have had to discuss food, drink, going to the toilet, shoes (no you can’t wear your ballet shoes), food again, coats (yes you must wear one and no I am not carrying it), hats and gloves, going to the toilet again, and the worst bit of it, where to park.
Gone are the days of jumping on the tube. I never thought I would wax lyrical about the tube. But 6 years away from it, here I am. The tube was like some magical creature, turning up at regular 5 minute intervals at the bottom of our road to whisk us away to Christmas shopping heaven. Several hours later, it would swoosh us back, almost to our doorstep, tipsy drunk and very happy.
These days we pretty much always drive to our late night Christmas shopping experience. I know it is appalling bad for the environment, but we do rely on the car A LOT. This is a big downside about living in Cornwall. The buses in general are pretty infrequent, the bus stops are distant and the car is an awful lot easier. However, where we often come unstuck in Cornwall is parking. The tiny towns lure us in with their cobbledy, windy streets and quirky little shops. But tiny towns don’t have big car parks and so we have to factor in a good 30 mins of car parking time.
Finally, we make it into the late night Christmas shopping zone. We are there, ready to shop. But it is a completely different style of shopping we do these days. Kids + Cornwall = tiny tiny disposable income. I gaze longingly at stalls filled with beautiful Christmas decorations, scented candles, room infusers, things we don’t really need. And so I take my practical list out of my pocket and shop with my sensible, Mum of two, salary of a fruit fly head on. It’s just not the same.
No it’s really is not the same. Yes, I miss the frivolous nature of my past life, and how could I not. But I have to admit this has been replaced by different and better things. Things that don’t cost lots of money but are far more valuable and enriching than any present I’ve ever been bought.
My kids bring back the wonder and excitement of Christmas. And my goodness they do get excited, which in turn makes it pretty exciting and special for us.
- They get really excited by Father Christmas. Any Father Christmas, it doesn’t have to be a real life one. My 2 year old’s head seems to nearly explode every time he sees one (watching TV with him at the moment is really funny). Pre kids, and post child hood, Father Christmas didn’t really come into our Christmasses. It is definitely a kids thing and I love it!
- They get very excited by Christmas lights. They are an amazing distraction. I can get them to walk really quickly and in a straight line down a shopping street providing there is a string of Christmas lights running down it. Christmas lights are also a good distraction in the car, a bit like horses and tractors.
- They love Christmas music. Well, don’t we all? They will dance and sing along with pure delight. They start singing carols from mid November and will continue well into January until I beg them to stop.
- Just being out in the dark is really exciting for them. They spend a lot of time asking if it is going to snow (no darling, we live in Cornwall) and will Father Christmas fly over the sky there?
- We always bump into one of their little friends (with parents in tow of course). Christmas with kids in Cornwall is a far more sociable experience in many way than life was back in London. You would never just bump into a bunch of people you know in the middle of London. Okay, this did happen to me a couple of time and it was always a pleasing shock. However, in Cornwall this is a normal occurrence and a really lovely, exciting one at that!
Late Night Christmas Shopping Dates In Cornwall
(if you know of any other late night Christmas shopping dates, do let me know and I can add then on).
30th November and 21st December until 8pm
Every Thursday in December until Christmas Day
Every Tuesday in December until Christmas Day. Free parking at White River Place & Priory Car Parks after 4pm
Saturday 2nd December. Free parking in The Stennack Car Park (behind the laundrette).
November 29th, December 6, 13th and 20th. Park and ride operating until 10pm.
15th and 16th December. Free parking in the co-op car park from 4pm.