Christmas / Economics

Christmas Lights A Go…No?

So the season is upon us- Christmas-time has arrived. With the arrival of December, households, towns and cities across the country prepare in anticipation and excitement for another festive celebration…the perfect end to what has been a very eventful year for the UK.

My own home-town, as well as my university both had their Christmas lights ceremonies in the past two weeks. It amazes me- the scale of the displays you can see from town centres; One would think budgets are endless or electricity in infinite supply.

Well being called ‘the economic problem‘, you couldn’t expect anything less but for me to state the obvious: that neither budget nor the electricity are infinite.(well assuming a bunch of things as economists do: that the various town councils are allocating a set amount of money and that electricity, which at present comes from predominately non-renewable sources, will eventually be too high in demand for us to use so cavalierly).

Now don’t get me wrong; I love Christmas lights. They add to the wonderful spirit you feel at this time of year…not to mention it gets dark early so a few extra street-lights are never a bad thing.

You have to think though, if we’re still apparently in the recession (or at least just recovering) and council budgets are so tights that cuts are being made everywhere, how does the budget for elaborate displays still exist? If anything could be seen as a ‘non-essential’ service, I think Christmas lights would have been on the list right next to ……… well next to something pointless councils spend their money on (like I have time to scour a council budget).

However after thinking this over, I have to argue for the other case.

People like Christmas.

People like Christmas lights.

People go to see Christmas lights.

I wouldn't go see that.

I wouldn’t go see that.

So when my home-town or my university city have their light display, it does not consist of a simple flick of switch. There’s the build-up ..the hype: a giant tree, entertainment for huge crowds, sponsors or celebrities making appearances, Santa, perhaps a market and a sing-song. It is the biggest night of the year back home (well that was at least until we had the swathes of crowds for the Jubilee and Olympic torch, but those are hardly regular occurrences).

I actually have had the honour of meeting the man who controls the whole event during my time in local government and my god, it is hard work. There we were in August and he’s pulling the papers out, phoning people, organising the night, doing the paperwork. Of course this is on top of his other work, but he admits it’s one of the best perks of his job. Imagine having all that power….

Now that's a Christmas light display!

Now that’s a Christmas light display!

Back to my point though.

Lots of people moan about Christmas lights being too flashy, probably about the same amount of people think councils don’t do enough! (I’ll take that town in Kent where people where so upset with the lights, it made BBC headlines).
The consensus is that people do like lights though. My family and I have made a tradition of going round the ‘affluent area of town’ (aka “look at the size of that house?!”) and looking at/judging their annual display. Surely we’re not the only ones who do it, but people do the same things in town centres. Light displays are just another way to attract people and therefore customers to an area. It brings out their optimistic nature and opens up their pockets too.

So lights = business = money (which a long way down the line assuming this happens everywhere) = more spending!

So next time a town in Kent decides to freeze its Christmas lights budget, I urge them to think again.

Enjoys the lights and worry about the electricity bill next year.

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