“They say it’s the thought that matters, not the akshul present.” Said Ginger, “but I’ve noticed that they’re jolly sniffy when you give ‘em the thought an’ not the akshul present.” (‘William the Detective’ by Richmal Crompton – 1934)
Besides the fact that I am a humanist** and that I find the omnipresent, in-your-face, tinselly trappings of this time of year insulting to my senses and to my mind, there are a few big reasons why I really, really, REALLY don’t like Christmas. Here they are:
- It’s about caring and sharing and family and peace and goodwill… once a year. Why not prolong this charitable attitude throughout the year? (And even then, as much as people try, they’re never really as convivial as they imagine they are around Christmas time. They really can be quite ‘sniffy’ indeed.)
- Even the most enthusiastic chestnut-roasters cannot disagree that Christmas has become a consumerist feeding frenzy. It’s all about the money. All retail stores have to do is to drop a little discount or a shiny new gadget into the water as chum. You certainly don’t see adverts reminding us that it is, after all, the thought that matters…
- Christmas really does bring about the worst in people. I’ve actually seen jingle-bellers in shops wrestling over things they wanted to buy as gifts for someone else… which really defeats the whole purpose of giving gifts and the whole spirit of the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, doesn’t it? (Not to mention the sulkiness caused by disappointing gifts, the drunken slobbery of the parties that get out of hand and the skirmishes between clans that only see each other on the Yuletide.)
- This is the worst thing about Christmas: It makes people feel bad. Even in the midst of a large celebration, people often become downcast. Not all of us have large loving families, not all of us have that special someone in our lives, and not all of us can afford to lavish gifts and food on the people we do love. Christmas makes people miss the things they don’t have, instead of celebrating the things they do. Christmas is to the lonely and disenfranchised what fashion magazines are to the homely.
- Somewhere someone is compiling an infographic on the waste produced during Christmas. It will make for staggering reading, I am sure: discarded gift-wrapping, wasted food, unwanted gifts, redundant cards, and all the packaging that comes with them. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of power needed to keep Christmas lights burning through the night.
- Christmas rituals subject kids to a great deal of silly mumbo-jumbo. There are a host of very strange goings-on come Christmastime: People hang ornaments on a tree and wait for a fat white man in a red suit to come shimmying down the chimney to drop off presents. He is transported there and to every house in the world by a team of flying reindeer with admirable bowel-control on one single night. Hopefully, once he gets down, he will not upset the nativity diorama on the sock-draped mantelpiece. There is nothing about any of this that is even biblically correct. Most adults know this, and go with it for ‘the sake of the children’. And we expect kids to swallow this, while for the rest of the year, their teachers are trying to get them to think critically. It’s creepy having an obese Coca-Cola inspired elf-man end up in your house somehow – especially if you don’t have a chimney. It’s traumatising to many kids when they are set on a strange man’s knee and asked to whisper what they want into his fake beard. It’s all a little disturbing, really. I wish people would do their kids a real favour and stop filling their heads with nonsense. Just because they’re young, doesn’t mean they’re stupid. But perhaps people realise that this is a slippery slope, and once they begin talking about what it really all means, they will end up with nothing***. (Does everything have to remind me of the parable of the Emperor’s New Clothes?)
- Most songs have a natural shelf life. And then they expire. The best ones hang on for a while longer – kept fresh by sentimentality and true artistic merit. But not Christmas music. Oh no… it just gets put out there year after year after year. Boney M, for instance, is like that strange piece of wedding cake on the top shelf of the closet that just never seems to rot away… and everyone’s hoping that this year someone will just throw the wretched thing away. No-one really wants it anymore. Pah-rumpa-pum-pum. And every year, more musicians try to jump on this shortcut line to immortality – even the great Bob Dylan has a Christmas album. And don’t even get me started on Christmas carols!
- I hate forced fun. Come Christmas time (mistletoe and wine) – everyone wants to insist that everyone else has a great time. And if you’re too cranky, you need to eat more, and drink more and be merry more. As if by faking it for long enough, you’ll make it real.
I will not, because it isn’t.
* I have chosen to call it ‘Christmas’, along with with the capital ‘C’, the encoded mythical being and the implied ritual, over ‘xmas’, which just seems childishly peevish somehow.
** For the uninitiated: A humanist, in the sense that I chose to use it, is an atheist who bases his moral code on the sanctity of human life.
*** Have you noticed how careful I am not to be too offensive? I really am trying!