“S” today. All my troubles seemed so far away…
Santa: Obviously. Or Father Christmas. Or Kris Kringle. Or whatever else you want to call him. I read some British people whining cynically on social media the other day about the commercialisation of Christmas and the diminishment of the message at its heart. I could agree with all of that, but what really got my blood boiling was the fact that they cited American Thanksgiving as a more honest, meaningful and munificent alternative. Which is, of course, bollocks.
Thanksgiving is in America what Christmas is in the UK – it is a nod to the kindly, caring, gentle folk we like to imagine ourselves to be and a denial of the selfish, greedy, uncaring, sociopathic bastards we actually are. And there is no society or culture or political infrastructure, IMHO, more appropriate than America to highlight that hypocrisy.
Sadly, the UK looks increasingly to America for its societal model, and even more sadly so too do the emerging economies that will eventually eclipse America as a world power. That, frankly, terrifies me. I don’t want to live in America, and I definitely don’t want to live in a carbon copy of America – its 51st State. We’ve spent the past two centuries or so trying to escape and make amends for our own inhumanity, tyranny and exploitation of the third world, and starting over flying the American flags of Globalisation, Capitalism, International Economics, and Consumerism seems a dangerous and ill-judged step backward to me. So leave Christmas alone, ya bastards.
Of course, one of the problems with Christmas is that Christ bit at the beginning of it, which has become something of a dirty word and one that many would like to see replaced with a big “X”. I don’t know why that should be: our belief system may have shifted but the core principles espoused under that belief system – kindness, consideration, generosity – are still principles worth celebrating (however hypocritically) and striving to attain, and does the nomenclature really matter? I’m a cowardly agnostic, and Christ doesn’t really come into it for me any more than it does for millions of Americans who honour the spirit of Thanksgiving without sharing the puritanical beliefs of the pilgrims who established the tradition. But Santa celebrates Christmas, and that’s good enough for me…
So, America, stick your Thanksgiving where the sun doesn’t shine and stick your related vile and tawdry Black Friday and your equally vile and tawdry Halloween along with it. If you want to look at ‘commercialised’ and ‘diminished meaning’ look no further than those three examples and leave our Christmas alone; you’ve done enough damage already. And let’s not forget where the rank commodification of Christmas actually began – if our Christmases are too commercialised and hyped it’s because we’ve been following your lead for far too long already. Harrumph. Roll on ‘Santaday.’
Secret Present Room: The best present I ever got was from my son, Ben, and he bought it from the “Secret Present Room” at his primary school Christmas Fayre. The secret present room, for the uninitiated, is an adapted classroom only children can enter filled with donated gifts suitable for adults that the kids can buy for a couple of quid a pop without their parents seeing. Once the kids have made their choices they are wrapped and labelled for secrecy and the kids come home and put them under the tree for Christmas morning.
Ben put a huge amount of thought into his secret presents – I could be waiting outside the classroom door for an hour or more while he made up his mind – but his autistic fuzzy-logic didn’t always pay off. The first year he used the secret present room, for example, he bought me a book, on the basis that I like reading.
The thought was certainly there, and I was chuffed to bits in that respect, but the fact it was an autobiography of John Fashanu was a bit of a letdown, as I had (and still have) no interest whatsoever in football or Mr F’s footballing career, which was the main topic of the biog. The book was secretly gifted back, unread, to the secret present room the following Christmas, and Ben given a reminder of the previous year’s gift before he went in lest he unwittingly buy it back again. That year he bought me a leatherette case holding twin decks of cards so we could play nomination whist when on holiday. I liked that present much more.
The best present, though, the one I felt he got exactly right, was a twinset of ceramic bottles for storing and drizzling olive oil and vinegar. I was totally choked on receiving these, because Ben choosing them reflected a kind of breakthrough in theory-of-mind thinking: he had bought them for me, not us, and he knew that, unlike the Fashenu book, they were of specific value to me (I love cooking and by extension all cookery equipment) rather than of generic interest. Or, I suppose with hindsight, it could have just been a lucky guess. Either way, I think as far as presents go these inexpensive bottles (you can buy a similar set on Amazon for around a fiver + P&P) rank as my all-time number one favourite. I’ve had much more expensive presents, and presents bought with equal thought and consideration, but sometimes it’s not about the gift or the thought. It’s about the person doing the thinking.
Snow: You can stick that as well. Evil stuff that kills pensioners and homeless people, brings the country to a standstill, destroys winter crops, and generally makes everything wet, cold and miserable. Sledging is good fun, but a couple of hours on a tea tray on a grassy bank in no way compensates for all of the other crap. Bah Humbug.
Stockings: Say no MORE! Huffa-Huffa. Oh yes, and the other ones that oldsters claim contained just a handful of nuts and an orange when they were kids are okay too.