I attended the turning on of the city’s festive lighting last Friday, in the company of my wide-eyed one year old. Of course, he had no idea why his Mama and Dada had him in the city centre in the cold and dark and quickly grew bored of standing around waiting for something to happen. He started to leave a few almighty roars out of him and attempted to march off into the crowd on his own. And then, in one of those magical Christmas moments that I will remember for the rest of my life, the lights flickered on, the Warrington horsies started to gallop around John Roberts’ Square and he was completely and utterly spellbound.
Though I’ve really been looking forward to Christmas now that the wee man can appreciate the sparkle a little more, it had never really occurred to me until then how captivating the season will be through his eyes, with the lights brighter, trees taller and gifts bigger then I could have imagined. I can’t wait to drive him around the city to visit all those homes that will be transformed into versions of the National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation this month. And his little face gazing upon those homes covered with enough fairy lights to ring the equator will change my own sense of what Christmas is all about.
Both the Warrington Carousel and the city’s wonderful festive lighting have certainly had the desired effect in my house. We can’t stay out of the city centre, given its appeal to my son – and of course every time we come in we’re spending a few bob.
During his speech last Friday, the city’s Mayor appealed for people to shop locally and buy Irish this Christmas, to assist in combating the high level of job losses in the local and national economy. As the majority of those assembled shivered and wished he’d get on with turning on the lights, the Mayor made the excellent point that moving even a small portion of our spending from imports to Irish made goods could help to protect and create employment for family, friends and the wider community. Perhaps the family occasion wasn’t the ideal moment speeches, but the Mayor’s sentiments must surely be commended.
Local authorities throughout the world are promoting those same values at the moment. When you think about it, if every consumer switched one tenth of their ‘imported shopping’ to Irish produced goods it would go a long way to sustaining Irish jobs in what are difficult times. That’s not always easy, when you’re shopping for a wii or the latest Hannah Montana DVD. But why not consider how far your Christmas dinner has travelled before it finds its way on to your plate this festive season? And does it really make any difference if it has come from the other side of the world or the other side of the garden?
More and more people are becoming convinced that the miles your food puts in are of singular importance. Indeed the word “locavore” – only eating foods produced within 100 miles of where you live – was nonexistent a few years ago, but has since become a part of mainstream vocabulary in many American areas.
Food miles are a big issue these days and if you’re even contemplating the idea of buying local food, then you’re a long way ahead of most consumers. According to research carried out by Glanbia only 24 per cent of Irish shoppers know what “food miles” actually means.
It’s estimated that 40% of the trucks on our roads are involved in the food industry, which equals a hell of a lot of carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases, diesel and noise pollution. Little wonder, when you consider the previously ‘out of season’ products that you can now buy all year round – like strawberries in November or. Fish caught off the Irish coast is often transported to Poland for processing, while potatoes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, courgettes, cauliflower and pretty much every other vegetable that can be grown here is both imported and exported in growing numbers.
Then there’s the effect this has had on so many of our local greengrocers and butchers. I know we all welcome the bargains that those larger out-of-town supermarket chains bring, but it’s still a little sad when you think of all those smaller Waterford traders who have shut their doors in recent years because they couldn’t compete with the bulk-bought products of the larger chains. And the jobs lost in the process. Do me a festive favour and ponder that one when you’re filling your trolley this Christmas.