Christmas is a recurrent, acute episode of collective, mental illness. Syncretistic insanity.
There’s no escaping the name Christ in Christmas so let’s begin at the beginning. Except that wasn’t really the beginning, was it? – The Virgin birth. It depends which genre of storytelling and half-truths you’re drawn to as to which fable ignites your fictive fire.
The stories of Jesus interest me in a cultural and historical context but the actual (scriptural) biblical version of his birth is, let’s be honest, a bit underwhelming. Especially if, like me, you only finally got around to reading the Gospels as an adult, after being brought up to know by heart the highly embellished, tinsel and tea-towel draped retellings – of which children’s nativity concerts everywhere are made – year after year. After centuries of editing, translation and, presumably, mistranslation of versions of history which were not even written at the time of the events they describe, the most interesting plot lines today are those which have likely been lost or buried. Rumour has it Mary, already betrothed to Joseph, had an affair with a Roman. And Jesus was born in May.
But isn’t it the message and not the literal truth of the story which is important? What message would that be then? That we should live more closely with sheep? Or that an inexplicable ecumenical singularity, which manifested itself as an unfathomable trinity, somehow guarantees mortal man eternal life after earthly death? The Sunday school interpretation is that we’ll all go to Heaven – but the church youth mentors clearly haven’t read the small print in Revelations.
The secular version of Christmas is just as curiously oddball. The Eucharistic (there’s another word for that) apéritif and amuse bouche of Midnight Mass are replaced with a glass of whatever’s in the fridge, a mince pie and a plate of reindeer snacks ahead of the glut-fest that is Christmas day but the creepy part of this scenario is that some weirdy-beardy bloke who’s been watching you all year breaks into your house in the middle of the night to partake of your light refreshments. By day he’s a trucker. He works for Coca-Cola.
The cult of Christmas dictates that we lie our heads off to our children.
And spend an absolute bloody fortune while we’re doing it!
Boy quite rightly pointed out that trees belong outdoors. He still hasn’t opened any of the cards or presents he got for his birthday last month and he doesn’t watch enough TV to be influenced in any way, shape or form by whatever plastic tat it is that kids are being brainwashed to believe they need this year. He has zero interest in opening a little numbered door each day and doesn’t do chocolate in any case so ADVENT remains little more than a mnemonic for remembering thirteen auxiliary verbs which take être to form the French perfect tense – as far as I’m concerned.*
Boy knows his own mind and I’ve finally just grown out of Christmas the way most people eventually grow out of believing in Santa Claus.
Dave accused me of being all Bah Humbug about the whole thing until I pointed out that a personal boycott on my part does not equate to an outright household ban for anyone else and that he’s perfectly free and fully entitled to buy Christmas cards, write Christmas cards, post Christmas cards, spend his December weekends Christmas shopping, his December evenings Christmas wrapping and the week before Christmas driving around three counties delivering presents which no one needs or wants. If he feels it’s entirely necessary to spend Christmas Eve peeling potatoes and blanching sprouts, Christmas morning stressing over a hot stove and Christmas dinner wishing he hadn’t bothered because Boy’s having cheese and crackers and I’m having a pasta bake then it’s not for me to stop him. If he really wants to try running around like a headless turkey after his knee operation mid-December then the best of luck with that. There’s plenty of Pagan-esque sparkly stuff in the attic for him to spend whatever time he has left to himself being Christmas-creative. We’ll catch up with him in January when all the fuss is over – Fa la la la la la la la la! It turns out that none of that stuff’s so important to him after all. Funny that!
The best thing about Christmas is Fairytale of New York but since I already posted it on this blog last year, here’s Radiohead instead.
Merry Madness and Maxing Out the Plastic! X
*Arriver – partir, Descendre – monter, Venir – aller, Entrer – sortir, Naître – mourir, Tomber – rester – retourner.