The ‘Spirit’ of The Season

With Christmas now quickly falling into the cosy pit of our memories and our attention now focused on the promise of a new year of technology and film, I felt now was a good time to express my opinion on the festive season so as not to spoil any moods on Christmas day. You will not be too surprised to hear that I think Christmas is blown out of proportion whenever it comes around and I’m here to play the classic Scrooge you no doubt imagine me being when you think of me at this time of year.

I remember many fine Christmases, if that’s the word for it, in which I received glorious gifts that made my little eyes sparkle and my inner child run around screaming in my head. I remember getting a PlayStation One and quickly ushering Dad towards the TV to get him to set it up so I could play Rayman. I also remember getting a big transforming space shuttle that opened up to reveal it was a sci-fi space base on the moon and it came with astronauts and aliens, as well as a handful of space age vehicles to have them pretend to battle it out in space. Yes, my Christmases were humble occasions and our family never had much money to splash out on celebrating but my Dad did his best to make sure each Christmas made a lasting memory, despite the fact for a great deal of his life this holiday made him sick to the stomach with money worries. I understand the point of Christmas and I have enjoyed the holiday on many different occasions so I’m not exactly the man with the coal-black heart but as I’ve become older, wiser and a lot more jaded, I’ve started to see why my Dad thinks Christmas is highly overrated.

Yes, I know what you’re going to say – “Oh Jacob is going to tug at our heart strings with talk of capitalist nonsense and ludicrous spending that only fuels the corporate machine that is currently killing the common man  in a slow and sinister fashion”. If you did say that, fair play, that’s a pretty concise yet loaded statement about commercialisation. You all know this argument, that Christmas has become a joke, a poor chance every December 25th to pick a man’s pockets (Points if you get the reference) but though it is a common opinion held by my fellow cynics, I sometimes feel it is overlooked by many people who laugh merrily and come back at us with “Oh cheer up, it’s Christmas!”. I ask of you, what is Christmas? A Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus two months later than he was actually born so as to overshadow the Pagan winter festival? A reminder of why you’ll never want a job involved with health or hospitality because you’ll no doubt find yourself working on said day whilst your family misses you at the table? Well we are told that Christmas is a time of togetherness, a time to gather the family around a turkey with party hats upon every head and crackers in hand as we all prepare to laugh and love together. I would like to think that is true and that this spirit was present in your own celebrations but then what is Christmas without gifts right? The promise of fine food and thoughtful presents from relatives you barely ever see is what tickled your fancy because otherwise it’s not all that common nowadays that families naturally come together around the table just because. However, I’m sure you don’t feel this is true right? You enjoy Christmas purely because it is a time of love and merriment yes? Well, Christmas has been built up to you all your life and so who knows what you truly feel about the holiday, perhaps you do honestly enjoy the family togetherness, or perhaps you have been instructed to do so by Nanny Television since you were a child.

In my honest opinion, Christmas is not the problem but the hype surrounding it is. In case you do not understand what I mean, allow me to explain myself using Halloween as my comparison. I am sure you probably only start planning ahead for Halloween in September, August if you’re a real nutter for the clutter of plastic skeletons, but generally people don’t give the occasion much thought before October and I’ve never met someone who gets too excited over it year by year. Halloween, of course, is another western perversion of an ancient festival and is now an excuse to demand food from strangers whilst expressing your interest for characters from TV shows or whatever or your total lack of care for the occasion by just turning up on doorsteps wrapped in toilet paper and calling yourself a Mummy. I’m not a huge fan of Halloween, it’s an American thing that the British now want to emulate because Britain secretly wishes it was America, and even then it is just a massive plastic crap on the traditions of old. However, we all know that, nobody harps on about the spirit of the season or the Halloween spirit, we all know it is a tacky parade of costumes and candy but we take part because god damn it, we bought that Batman costume and we need an excuse to wear it! Halloween is naff, let’s face it, but we take part for shits, giggles and free food. However, whereas we are all aware that Halloween is not a momentous occasion and not really a celebration any more, Christmas has become very much the same thing and we don’t seem to want to notice.

Christmas is the only day of the year that the majority of us prepare for months in advance and as autumn rolls in, you get people asking if you’re ready for Christmas. Ready for Christmas is a funny expression, as if Christmas is some sort of challenge to face but then again it is really. The TV bombards you with flashing reminders that you must empty your wallet immediately and buy people ‘the perfect gift’ otherwise you’re a worthless human being and will forever be shunned as a miserable bastard like myself. Incidentally, you’re welcome to join my League of Miserable Bastards, we don’t do subscription gifts but there’s tea and biscuits and you’ll never hear any painstakingly bad music on in the community room. You can count on the media to wait for Halloween to come and go and then it will attack you mercilessly, smacking you in your eyeballs with pictures of turkeys and knitted jumpers and singing snowmen as it screams “BUY BUY BUY!” like a demonic parrot trying to wish you farewell (Read it aloud, makes more sense). I think Christmas is less fair on children than it can be to adults because as a child you watch adverts of amazing toys and treats that you want so badly and so you write your letter to an imaginary fat man and if you’re lucky and your parents are flash with the cash, you get the gift and all is well. If this is you, stop reading this, you will not be able to relate. If all is not well, you don’t get the gift you want, you get the next best thing or something you didn’t even ask for. Your faith in Santa is shaken and you look at your parents with sad eyes but they can’t tell you they couldn’t afford that giant princess castle play set because then they’d have to tell you that your gift wasn’t made by elves, it was made by small Chinese children who get paid in pennies to work until they die, and that is a reality which will stomp on your childish heart. You start to resent Santa and your parents for letting you down, even if you were such a good boy or girl (which you were blackmailed into by your parents, who threatened you with socks full of coal) Christmas can spoil a child and make them selfish, no doubt, but even if they aren’t disappointed by what they received, the holiday itself falls short and allow me to explain using my own experiences as a child and some retrospective thinking.

Ok, so as a child Christmas consisted of the following routine: up at the crack of dawn to look in my stocking to see various small gifts that would keep me occupied for a few hours until my Dad and my Stepmother got up out of bed, as Dad gets up we all scurry downstairs to the sacks full of big gifts and then unwrap them with bright eyes to then enjoy them for a few hours until dinner time. Our Stepmother always made such massive banquets at Christmas and so cheaply too but we didn’t even know as we dined like kings and then after a family dessert, we’d maybe watch some films Dad had bought for us or just run back upstairs to continue playing until we got tired and went to bed. Boxing day rolls in and… uh… nothing special happens. You have your gifts, you keep playing but because you’re a child, your fancy toys end up boring and broken by the time January arrives. Sure, maybe I was ungrateful, but I’m a white child of the western world, they’re good at that. However, I think Christmas is just built up to too much for the kids – all this waiting and waiting and being good, not kicking the cat or putting gum in hair to then have ONE DAY of puddings and presents before it’s done. Christmas came, Christmas went. You might get to stay up late come New Year’s but then that’s it. Hanukkah has the right idea and sounds much more fair on children, a more constant stream of little gifts day by day to make you excited for each day coming rather than this promise of a bucket-load of presents for one day. Even worse, after all of this you eventually come to realise that Santa Claus is a lie made up to get you to behave in a more desirable fashion and so you start to challenge your parents a lot more but then this is what Terry Pratchett said in The Hogfather, that characters such as Santa are the lies we must believe in as children so that we can believe in bigger lies as adults such as justice and mercy. I know that a darker part of your soul is aware of the reality that this is all a cheap façade we’ve been buying into since we were kids and now you want to keep smiling because you don’t want to admit that darkness is there, you want to keep grinning and gift-giving and gift-receiving, year after year, until you’re the one telling these lies to other people and the cycle continues like taking a steaming great shit into a washing machine and then turning it on to watch it swirl.

December 25th should not be highlighted as the time to remember a sacred baby or the time to spend your money on gifts, or even the time to think of family. At the risk of sounding as cheesy as Christmas, you should aim to show your love for those who care about as often as possible without needing some special occasion to encourage you to be a decent human being. If the spirit of giving and caring truly exists inside you, keep it alive all year round. I could be bitter, I could be right. I mean, my brothers didn’t get me gifts despite me getting gifts for them but let’s gloss over that hmm? I hope what I’ve said today is not simply ignored as the ravings of a cold-hearted man, who is as solitary as an oyster and annoyed that Christmas this year for him consisted of being told he’s off JSA, a pudding he got ready for the occasion being sniffed at and binned and his spirit of giving and caring receiving little in reciprocation. Bah, humbug!

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