Crossing Glasgow's George Square yesterday I noticed that council workers were already putting up the city's Christmas lights - and so the festive madness begins.
In the coming weeks we will see that all-too-familiar, almost manic, conspicuous consumption that we have become accustomed to despite the dire warnings that austerity and economic hard times are upon us.
For international humanitarian agencies Christmas is something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand the festive spirit goes some way to pricking the conscience of many among us, resulting in donations to charities. On the other hand, the financial demands of Christmas mean that many more people are not in a position to give.
Home and away, suffering and hardship are always brought into sharp focus at Christmas time. This year in terms of overseas stories, we can expect the plight of those ordinary civilians caught up in Syria's civil war to haunt our nightly television news reports. Across Syria peace and goodwill will be in short supply. Among those who know this to their cost are upwards of two million Syrians who have now fled their war-ravaged country. And there have been 4.25 million people internally displaced since the conflict began in March 2011.
This is nearly a 10-fold increase from this time last year. As one aid worker summed it up recently; "Syria is haemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs."
In a few weeks I will be in Lebanon, one of the countries neighbouring Syria which now finds itself reeling under the influx of refugees. While there, I hope to talk to some of those who have made the perilous journey across the border dodging bombs, bullets as well as rampaging militia and Syrian government soldiers along the way. Unlike Jordan and Turkey, two of the other countries shouldering a high number of Syrians, large formal refugee camps are not allowed by the Lebanese government, even though the country has absorbed the greatest number, some 728,000 to date.
The hills and plains of the Lebanon-Syria border are an unforgiving place during the winter months. Bitterly cold, wet and snowy, those who make it there will find conditions taking their own toll on the infirm, elderly and young.
Even here they are often not safe from the fighting, and well within shelling range from Syria. Indeed, so bad are conditions now in the already impoverished north of Lebanon near the Syrian border, that many of the poorest Lebanese are now themselves fleeing. Some were among the scores of refugees drowned recently off the coast of Java when their ship sank as they tried to make it to Australia to start a new life.
As winter bears down we can expect to see much more suffering and intensified efforts by humanitarian agencies to try and help. Christmas is all about children and families. This will be the worst ever for many ordinary Syrians. It's a sobering thought and worth at least a moment of our attention during the Christmas madness.
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