As we dismantle Christianity and our culture erects more comfortable secular myths to fill the inevitable void, its easy to forget that Christmas is built on the ruins of a series of pagan festivals. Its main foundation stone is the Yule-tide Winter Solstice when the nights are at their longest, coldest and darkest, and hope flickers at is lowest. Imagine Christmas Eve for our pre-historic forebears, without any sense of certainty that the seasons will change and life will be restored. No Peter Andre 2010 calendar to reassure them that next year will come and May will see Peter, shirt-off, soaping up a Ferrari. No new series of 24 to cheer their frozen souls. No cheap flights in the sun for Ug and his missis. The trees are dying, the sun gives no warmth, nothing will grow in the hard, barren ground, the food supplies stored away are dwindling, people are sick and everything is utterly miserable. The warm weather might return, it might not. There may be hope for the future, there may not. They didnt even have a 24 hour Tescos and central heating to fall back on. The stirrings deep within my Celtic DNA tell me that the Christmas of my pagan ancestors was a much darker occasion than the mawkish neverneverland of false sentimentality gifted to us by two of histories greatest hypocrites the Victorians and Hollywood. It was an event more grounded in the reality of human existence. Eat, drink, be merry for tomorrow we die. Or tonight in our sleep, in the middle of appalling nightmares that rise above us like a frozen cliff face, our muscles cramped rigid with cold. I envisage something fatalistic in their celebrations. Something where the human spirit dragged itself to its feet shivering and half-delirious with hunger and hypothermia, downed as much fermented mead as they could lay their hands on, shagged each other senseless and threw themselves into the last roaring embers of the fire. A bit like bungee jumping from the top of Big Ben using a length of washing line. Tied round your neck. Singing Slades Merry Christmas Everybody. While copping off.
So as climate change apparently sees the world wobbling on the verge of a new Ice Age, Barnsley Council decide its not worth the effort to grit the roads, petrol prices soar again, and I tie the tinsel noose from my banister in readiness for the big festive orgasm that my genetic code has handed down to me, I wish you all a Merry Bloody Christmas.