It’s CHRISTMAS!! As Noddy Holder from Slade once said back in the 1970s. Slade’s mortal rival at this time, Wizard, declared that they ‘wish it could be Christmas every day’ despite that proposal being both unwelcome and impractical. These two festive Titans slog it out between mid-November and late December on an annual basis, before each returns to their respective realms to gather strength (and lucrative royalties) until next year.
At the risk of being called a curmudgeon at this time of year, I’m starting to get sickened by it all now. Perhaps it’s an age thing. I’m approaching my 34th Christmas (I also hope to have many more). My annoyance isn’t with the time of year per se, but the ways it’s packaged and presented to us by corporations and conglomerates. It’s the ceaseless promotion to buy stuff that is only tangentially connected to Christmas. The repackaging and re-costuming of consumer goods. The fact that it starts sometime in September each year. The ‘Americanisation’ and the ‘Happy holidays’. The heaving high street teeming with total strangers who are evidently stressed.
My journey to this point has been a long one. Christmas is a magical time when you are a child, although the magic seems to be noticeably less prevalent the lower your socio-economic status, but that’s another issue entirely. However, as soon as you enter adulthood the wheels start to come off from Christmas.
The ‘Christmas’ that I consider normal is so far removed from reality, that it’s unreachable. It’s entirely viewed through the prism of American culture. Films like Home Alone, Jingle all the Way, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, Santa Claus: The Movie, Elf and all the interminable ‘True Movies’ that are at this time of year, all present Christmas as Upper-middle class, affluent, softly lit, warm, perfect and with 2ft of crisp, fresh snow covering the surroundings. If you try and emulate this, you will be disappointed. But to this day, it is still my idea of a perfect Christmas, so strong and persistent is its cultural pull.
This year, in particular, two events have occurred to me that were the most cynical and disturbing ‘Christmas’ related occurrences that I can remember.
The least serious of these was seeing a six-foot cardboard cut-out of Santa Claus waving at me from a local shop trying to tempt me into purchasing a multipack of 2-litre bottles of brown sugar water. Now, I enjoy the occasional beverage of brown sugar water in all their wonderful varietals: Cherry, vanilla, and lime. Particularly if I’m out and don’t want to have an alcoholic drink. However, to be accosted by a Coca-cola TM endorsed and produced Santa Claus is another matter. Related to this is the fact that the Coca-cola ‘Christmas’ lorry is a real thing now and has been for some time. I have known many colleagues who take their children to see the lorry when it’s on its UK tour. Selfies are taken and families gather around to gawk at it. I assume they give out free bottles of coke as well. For many, Christmas doesn’t start until they first view the advert on TV. ‘Holidays are coming, holidays are coming’. See, I bet you’re singing it in your head right now, aren’t you? Quite how a giant red American lorry became the harbinger of the birth of Jesus Christ across Western civilisation is a mystery. It has however proved a very prudent move by Coca-Cola who saw it sell £185 million worth of cola in 2012. More importantly, they get to increase their creeping corporate presence into our collective unconscious, which is then passed on from generation to generation. If that fails, there’s always the polar bears.
The other event that I had the misfortune to witness was a recent advert from Currys. Now, the seasonal release of ‘Christmas’ adverts is another potent symbol that the ‘holiday season’ has arrived. Most of these adverts are a bit cloying and saccharine, but if you want to burst into tears at an advert, be my guest. It’s a free country. Some of them are just about heart-warming enough to provoke an emotional response in me; and my hearts a gnarled, desiccated husk by now. Most of them are fairly forgettable after a year. I have a vague recollection of a lonely old man on the moon and another with woodland animals hibernating through Christmas. I think Jamie Oliver did one as well. I remember the term ‘them mince pies are well pukka mate’ being spoken in ‘Estuary English’. No doubt next year, I won’t remember the ‘Christmas Monster’ by John Lewis either. I can barely remember it now.
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No, what I witnessed that dreary November day while watching TV, weak and weary, was the most cynical artifact that human culture has ever birthed and this is coming from a species who tried to sell powdered baby formula to women without a potable source of water. It starts off with two parents telling their children that they are going to have a traditional Christmas. You know, the abominable ones where you talk to your loved ones over a meal. That sort of nightmarish Christmas. Repugnant! However, the dark heart of the advert really begins when it turns out that the ‘parent’ is really a salesperson at Currys. She then tries to flog the family a new TV and utters one of the vilest phrases that has ever been said in late capitalist, decadent society: ‘LG OLED 4K ready TV with perfect black and colour and with Dolby atmos 360 degree sound, it’s what Christmas is all about’. No, it bloody well isn’t. I’d like to think that this time of year is more significant than a 50 inch, black rectangle sitting in your living room. Regardless of what you choose to do or not do, I sincerely hope that your Christmas revolves round something more worthy, enjoyable or noble than a 4k ready TV.
To be fair, this year’s offering from Currys was one of the worst, but every company is at it at this time of year. ‘Buy now in time for Christmas’ DFS yell at me with all the subtly of a SWAT team barging through my door.
The opposite side of the coin to this ceaseless corporate onslaught is the interminable, left-wing, social justice, virtue-signalling Guardian articles about how I’m perpetuating poverty in the global south by shopping at ASDA. Or how by even daring to celebrate a Judaeo-Christian festival, I’m taking part in the cultural genocide of minority groups. Or how we should all have a ‘fat-free Christmas’ instead of gorging to the point of sickness. Or how Mary and Joseph should have given the baby Jesus up for adoption to a gender-fluid couple in order to smash the patriarchy. The sort of people who don’t have Christmas at all, but would wish you a ‘happy, non-material, winter festival time’ instead.
No doubt if the birth of Jesus were to occur now, the three Magi would have followed the Coca-Cola lorry to the manger with a multi-pack of cherry coke (You couldn’t just provide regular coke. Show some respect he’s the Messiah), a voucher for DFS and a retro selection box. In the meantime, the Romans would have tried to enforce a law whereby all cribs must be made with fair trade materials and would have fined the proprietor of the manger, two denarii for not enforcing this.
Recently, a friend accidentally told me to ‘have a Christmas’ when we parted ways in Glasgow. Perhaps that’s enough sometimes. Just have a Christmas. It doesn’t have to be the best Christmas ever. It can still be a nice time regardless if your relatives are sitting on a couch that is three years old, watching TV on a standard 1080p screen.
To that end, I would like to wish you a Christmas and a New Year.
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