Cherryhill at Christmastime

John and I live near this mall in London called Cherryhill.
Let me back up: London calls things malls that I would just call a strip mall with an inside, since it's cold. There are two larger malls that I think of as actual malls. Cherryhill is more like an indoor strip mall aimed at senior citizens, many of whom live in our neighborhood. It's got everything a senior person - or any person - might want (pharmacy, groceries, liquor store, travel agent, bank, post office, public library branch), and once you're there, you don't have to wear a coat or worry about slipping on the ice.
Come to think of it, Cherryhill has just about everything I want within walking distance. It was perfect last year when we needed groceries during the Big Snow of 2010. When I say it's popular amongst seniors, I'm not complaining or criticizing. It's a cheerful place, especially in the coffee shop where a lot of people seem to have long-standing meetings with their friends. We love having a library branch so close by so that we can request books and dvds to pick up there. John once overheard an amazing line from an older gentleman while waiting in line at the library.

Elderly Patron: I need a new library card.
Library staff: Can I see your old one?
[Patron hands her the card, she examines it.]
Library staff: Wow, I've never seen one this old!
Elderly Patron: I got it when I came back from West Germany.

In a way Cherryhill seems like what a depiction of a charming "period" mall from the 80s would be like - you know, like Pioneer Village, but a mall. It's basically one long hall way with a food court at its center that features almost no chain restaurants (not even Tim Horton's). The annual Christmas decorations are easily my favorite thing about this place.

During the holidays they set up about 4 different displays of animatronic people and animals that move and look cheery.

They represent the way different social classes might celebrate Christmas. The poor fruit sellers, the guy warming his hands over the burning trash (or is that some other material I don't recognize? Why is he burning charcoal in that pushcart?). Note the light under the can - it looks like it's really burning.

You've got your bourgeois/upper-class carolers.

Last year someone put a picture in each of their carol books of a man wearing overalls but no shirt (completely not obscene). Their expressions turned from "singing joyfully" to shock when they bowed their motorized heads to look at the picture. The pictures weren't there long, but I thought it was a pretty fun, harmless prank.

I think Mary looks an awful lot like the curly-haired woman selling apples.

And of course you've got your standard manger scene.

These kids throwing snowballs and skating are pretty cute, but I have to admit that sometimes these figurines used to creep me out.

That little boy with the snowballs has a way of turning his little animatronic head in my direction right when I walk past, as if he's eying me as his next target.

Less creepy than last year's sheep heads worshiping the snowy Jesus.

In general though they don't give me the creeps as much as they signal the start of Christmas in our neighborhood, and for that reason I've started to really love the Apple Lady, the Kid Who Falls on the Ice, the Manger Camel. You can't look that friendly camel in the face and argue that it's too soon for Christmas decor.

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