Oh, for a traditional Christmas: a modest twig in the hall, a morsel of chicken with one trimming and a shared satsuma for the children, provided, of course, if theyíve behaved and been given the time off work. Yes, Dickens had the right idea ñ Christmas was about modest, private celebration with carols sung distinctly sotto voce.
But now? In the age of the automobile, Christmas has broken free and now travels with us, subtlety and discretion having been fly-tipped along with all notions of what the event might actually be about. Todayís yuletide is all about blinging your sleighed-up chassis and joining the cavalcade to the nearest tailback for the sales. Personally, Iíd rather watch a box set of Queenís speeches than let anything dangle in my cockpit, but if you must join in this growing craze for portable celebration, at least try to do it with a little taste ñ and an eye for safety.
First though, cue the festive music and join our eBay and Amazon-assisted tour through a winter wonderland of accessories you can squander your cash on in the hope that it will somehow add sparkle to the Christmas commute.
At number ten in the top purchases comes a snowman aerial topper, a small plastic grinning face that would choke a safari park monkey as quick as you can say ho-ho-ho. These are £3.50 a pop. Ambience is, of course, key to the mood, so why not invest in some Jingle Smells Christmas Pine car freshener to help dispel the fog of despair? Yours for a fragrant £1.99. At number eight comes your favourite and mine: good old-fashioned tinsel. Wrap it around everything. Prices vary.
At number seven in the best-buys list, a 28-centimetre Fun Christmas Antlers & Nose Set and ensures youíll be a hit with the grilles: the horns clip to the wings of your car while the furry nose restricts the air intake. Should you subsequently overheat, repairs will be deer! At six, yule laugh all the way to A&E with a dash-mounted plug-in mini tree (circa £10), though true bravery in displaying Christmas spirit goes to all who buy the snowflake sticker pack and allow their children to slap them all over their prized bodywork. Will they peel off in 2017? Itís all part of the excitement, and only £8.99.
Speaking of irreparable damage, a £10 can of snow spray will transform the stylish curves of your facia into a mini Arctic, while if youíre planning conversion of your glovebox into Santaís grotto, be sure to spray around said area for full atmospheric effect. Without top buy number four, a set of battery-powered lights (prices vary), the full effects of your in-car glaciation will be wasted. At three, itís back outside and a chance to adorn holly and berry-motif stickers all over your bumpers (£2.99), while our number two favourite is, yes, the classic rear-view mirror dangler ñ reindeers rule again here, at £3.50 a swing. And number one? Itís a plastic sprig of mistletoe (£3.50).
Thus bedecked, one might feel a touch silly. And youíd be right ñ though not purely for social reasons. The AA has researched our passion for automotive decoration and found the UK has around 1.5 million drivers whose bad taste may be putting themselves and others in danger. ìThe survey found one in 20 vehicles had items dangling from their rear-view mirror which could create a blind-spot. The number one item was a green scented tree which seemed to be favoured by van and pick-up truck drivers,î the report sniffed.
The most bizarre and dangerous items were identified as bright silver (such as baubles and tinsel). In morning sunlight, these could dazzle other drivers. If you can find one, a copper on the beat will point out that motor vehicle construction and use regulations require a full view of the road ahead. Windscreens and windows must be kept free from obstructions. Aside from a fine, your car can fail MOT regulations, which forbid a windscreen sticker or other obstruction encroaching more than 10 millimetres in the area below the rear-view mirror. So, bling away, if you must, and have a humbug-free break, but be sure to keep legal ñ and stay safe.