Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

It is, I’m reliably informed by every bugger I know, Christmas. The season of joy and goodwill to all men. Ding dong merrily on high. Jingle all the way. But I’m not convinced. Were it not for the fairy lights strung from lampposts, the huge queues at the tills, the additional vomit on the pavements in town and the glut of people going around dressed like Santa the fact might easily have passed me by. And I have the same conversation every year. Does it feel like Christmas to you? It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. My interlocutor looks awkwardly at the paper crown they’re wearing, the illuminated plastic reindeer antlers, the tinsel boa and agrees: it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Despite the best efforts of Noddy Holder, Boney-M, Cadbury’s, Tescos, George Michael, Aled Jones, Gimster’s Pies, Raymond Briggs and Her Majesty the Queen it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.


So what exactly should Christmas feel like? Well I blame Charles Dickens. Dickens was a copyrighter for commercialism. I can see him now, on TV, munching on a mini mince pie… top hat and a surtout… custard and brandy butter… this isn’t just a normal Christmas, this is a Charles Dickens Sainsbury’s Christmas. Pushing a trolley ‘round ASDA, exchanging a flirty remark with one of the Nolan sisters as he fights her for the last bottle of Advocaat. Because a hundred and fifty years ago Dickens shaped our idea of Christmas. All that feasting on huge slices of ham and flagons of ale, the frosty trips in stage coaches through picture postcard countryside blanketed in thick snow. The carols and the knees up. He gave us the necessary material ingredients. And so it seems that one of the first requirements is that we need to wrap ourselves in Plenty. Whether it be gifts or food. The more the merrier. And when it comes to food it’s the richer, the stodgier the better. Christmas pud soaked in spirits, loads of chocolate, massive pork pies, a gargantuan turkey, chutney and truffle stuffing, roast potatoes drenched in beef fat. The second is that we must be surrounded by people. Auntie This and Uncle That. Cousin Whatshisname. Our Whattheycallher. Friends from all four corners of the globe. The third, and perhaps most important, is intoxication. You have to get drunk. It is a must. No two ways about it: you have to be legless. Bladdered. Absolutely and totally wankered. Pissed out of your brain. Load up on beer, wines and spirits. Stock up. Fill your trolley. Stack kegs, crates and cases of the stuff under the fibre-optic, white and gold trimmed designer Christmas tree from John Lewis. And there we have Christmas.


But all this is falling apart. And even Dickens would be aghast at Christmas in the early 21st Century. Because Dickens created that fictional cosiness of roaring open fires and jolly innkeepers to set a scene, to engender community and kindness. To bring about a feeling. But our traditional festivals have been denuded of meaning by multi-culturalism and materialism. Christmas – time for a piss up. Easter – time for a piss up. Every Bank Holiday it’s the same – time for a piss up. Eat loads, drink loads, buy loads, be sick. We are descending into neo-paganism. Because it’s bland and it’s acceptable and it doesn’t insult anyone. Inoffensive Paganism is a money spinner. Ask any five or six year old the figure they most associate with Christmas – Santa. Or perhaps Chris Tarrant. Jesus is way down the list. But then again Jesus doesn’t shift many PSPs and X-Box 360s, does he? You can’t see Jesus battling it out on Super Mario carting for the Nintendo Wii with Jimmy and Liza Tarbuck, can you? You had me that time! Laughs Jimmy, stumbling back onto the white leather sofa. And Christ doesn’t look quite right on the adverts swigging a bottle of Bailey’s or throwing snowballs at Ronald McDonald. And, let’s face it, we wouldn’t want to upset any other religions/cultures by mentioning him too much anyway, would we? Or the atheists. It might affect sales for a start. I’m sure even a few Christians would be up in arms if Jesus were seen to endorse Coca-Cola. No, let’s keep it to Father Christmas eating a box of Roses whilst drinking Boddington’s and bopping to Slade and we’ll be all right. Because at Christmas everyone has the right, no matter what creed or colour, to skint themselves by buying loads of stuff to pretend they’re happy.


Bah humbug.


The fact is that the activities remain – the drinking and the over-eating, the relief of days off work and the queues at the cash registers – but the meaning is gone. It doesn’t feel like Christmas.


And what about Christmas telly? It is undoubtedly shit. Even shittier than TV has become normally. Who wants to watch Christmas Specials of programmes that you don’t watch for the other 364 days of the year? Let’s head over to the Albert Square for a traditional Christmas stabbing. Coronation Street for a seasonal marital break up. Let’s not, eh? Emily Bishop being bludgeoned to death with a Christmas pudding by a smackhead dressed as Papa Noel. Peggy Mitchell hanging herself upstairs in the Queen Vic using tinsel as a noose. It’s sensational bollocks. Or maybe we could have Peter and Jordan bickering over who bought who the best Ferrari. Jeremy Kyle with a Christmas special as jobless alcoholics confront their paedophile Santa Dad. Ho! Ho! Ho! Good grief. Bread and circuses – binge drinking and fake reality TV. We wish you a Merry Christmas…


Now time and experience are relative. Time contracts the more of it we are exposed to. The more knowledge we have of it. It’s a bit like the journey home by car from the Isle of Wight – once you know how long it will take by driving there, it doesn’t feel to take the same length of time driving back. And so maybe I’m thinking things used to be different. We had more time. The winters were colder. The drunkenness was more convivial. Things were better. Maybe. Admittedly watching Pan’s People dance to Mud’s ‘Lonely Christmas’ was shit. And anyone who ever sat through Billy Smart’s Christmas Big Top will I’m sure agree with me that it was truly appalling. So perhaps I’m looking through a rose-tinted filter. Maybe it’s just me and all this is subjective. My age. My time of life. My own experiences. And my lack of feeling for Christmas is due to the fact that I’m reminiscing about something I’ve lost. Perhaps that’s it, partly, at least. Maybe it’s that Christmas just isn’t post-modern enough. It doesn’t take into account the grief or the loss. It has amnesia. It’s callous. It’s too busy selling the idea of happiness achieved through consuming and spending; of this moment right here and right now being all that’s important. Of getting drunk and eating as much as you can being all there is to it. But what’s special about that? Maybe the problem is that perhaps Roy Wood’s got his wish and it is Christmas everyday.


Anyway, I’m going to crack open another Guinness, have a pork pie and sing along with Sir Cliff Richard. Merry Christmas. Apparently.


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