Christmas is coming: But not to our house

Our houseIn town today we had a lovely few hours with our friends from Homebaked at the Quaker Meeting House. Principally there to take part in the Christine Physick exhibition of Anfield Art that I wrote about last week, our conversations, in fact, rambled far and wide. Through life and the living of it and the wonders of monkey puzzle trees (Sarah was there with us after all).DSC08488

One thing that didn’t get a mention all over the morning and the lunch that followed was Christmas. But as soon as we all emerged into the heaving Saturday streets, preparations for Christmas were in full swing and I suffered my first and traditional annual attack of nausea. Because I loathe Christmas. And I thought it might annoy you or amuse you if I were to tell you my 10 reasons why. Eight negative ones, ending on a bit of an upswing.

1. Why should I like Christmas?

If there were a ‘faith’ based reason, I could more easily get away with what you might think is my irrational response to the annual onslaught of festivity. You might not understand me but you’d be kind hearted and tolerate the fact that ‘Oh, he doesn’t do it do it, it’s because of his religion.’

But I have no religion, so over the years people have had to face the full on fact that I just won’t do it. I just won’t join in. Which of course, in itself, like the other things I won’t join in with like parties, television and family dos in general, gives me great and perverse pleasure and has landed me in a deal of trouble over the years.

But it’s me exercising my free will and, as far as I know it’s still a free country, so why should I like Christmas?

2. Alternative Christmases don’t work

In our first couple of years together Sarah and I did in fact do Christmas, sort of. I remember small trees and doing presents. Because each of us thought the other probably ‘expected’ Christmas to happen. When we both realised this wasn’t the case there was much genuine rejoicing in letting go of all the traditional trappings of the great feast. But for a couple of years we still did ‘alternative’ Christmases.

So weak were these that I’ve had difficulty remembering what they consisted of, and have had to ask Sarah. Who tells me that our big idea was that we moved the whole thing to Solstice, had a Solstice meal and, well, Solstice presents. And it worked no better than the real thing 3 or 4 days later.

So I think you either do Christmas or you don’t. A couple of friends (Hello Sarah and Dom!) go fully and joyously into it and, I understand, decorate the whole house and truly feel there is magic to be had in the glorious traditions. Good on them and you either do Christmas or you don’t. Because alternative Christmases don’t work.

3. Christmas is for kids

So yes, if you’ve got children you’re pretty much obliged to do it. Providing them with a sense of wonder whilst hoping the whole thing doesn’t tip over into rampant greed. But once they’ve grown and gone, why bother?

You can both get up early on Christmas morning, skip excitedly down the hall and shout ‘He’s been!’ But unless you’ve somehow failed to grow up yourself you well know he hasn’t been, that there’s no such thing as Father Christmas and there never was.

It’s for the kids and it’s a fair enough collective lie all parents go along with for a few years.

4. Christmas is for Christmas dos

And when I worked in a big organisation the annual do was always the cause of great excitement:

  • What’re you wearing?
  • Who’s got off with who?
  • Did you see the state of…?
  • Was I there?

But often the ‘dos’ of our’s and all the related housing organisations would last for most of December. And it always puzzled me the way people would pack more or less all their year’s social life into one month?

Anyway, these days I don’t miss them. And Sarah and I have long stopped jostling our way into a crowded restaurant sometime in December and calling it our ‘Christmas do.’ The special menus are specially crap, so we eat at home or on the allotment and wait for space in the cafés to clear after it’s all over.

Christmas dos don’t do it for us.DSC08526

5. It’s all about family

Oh is it? I’d assume if you particularly like them you’d see members of your family now and then throughout the year.

But my memories of Christmases mercifully long gone are of getting together with some and distant family members not seen since the previous Christmas. And the agony of each giving and receiving presents from people we mutually didn’t much know and didn’t much like either. I remember particularly the after-shave I continued to receive each year from a particular someone for years after I’d grown a beard.

In the end, for me, all the family Christmases merged into one and I stopped turning up.

The families no doubt still meet, better off without me there spoiling it for them.

6. Christmas music is an offence against humanity

Like the first cuckoo in Spring, the first hearing of Slade let’s you know this year’s Christmas has really begun. Then the rest of the horrors start blaring at you in every shop you go in. Step into Christmas, I wish it could be Christmas every day, the one about old Mr Churchill, the Phil Spector ones and that nasty ‘It’s getting to look a lot like Christmas’. Every year, for about 6 weeks, the whole of shopping humanity is force fed the same aural pap.

It’s an offence against humanity.

It is, in fact, all about the shopping.

It is, in fact, all about the shopping.

7. It’s all about shopping

So many people’s faces in town today looked so grim, set and determined. The politics of family and friendship apparently depending on finding and choosing just the right things and, for goodness sake, the right things to ‘go with’ the right things for everyone you know or are related to. Every twelve months! An orgy of shopping for expensive or pointless or both crap. The price of being a functioning member of society.

Because it’s ‘good for the economy’. In fact large parts of the economy, especially in these days of austerity politics, depend on the goings out and the giving of gifts at Christmas. Each year the lap dog press congratulate or admonish us, depending on whether the city centre shops have had record takings or not.

And at Christmas it may well, as the old saying goes ‘be better to give than receive’ – but you stop giving and see how quickly your own receiving will cease.

Well I haven’t bought a Christmas present in years. And if that’s the price of being a fully paid up member of society you can stuff it. I’m happy out here on the outside.

Because if it’s all about shopping then it’s nothing to do with me.

8. And every year there’s a gathering sense of anti-climax

As the big day approaches and the ‘January’ sales start earlier and earlier in December, there is a tangible sense that once again the big bet is not going to come off. That the dos and the meals and the giving and receiving have once again not brought the wished for happiness and fulfilment.

And the January depression gathers earlier even than the realisation of the January debts.

It’s just too big a thing, it seems to me. An addiction that leads where addictions always lead. To a cold and desolate aftermath and the grim realisation that before long you’ll be wanting the short term hit of another Christmas again.

Every year I see people going through this anti-climax. And I wonder why?DSC08532

9. But we do have sparkly lights 

Apart from all the Christmas shit we do like this time of year. The gloaming and the darkling down to the turning of the year. We love the warm glow of the home we know we’re fortunate to have and the love of each other in our quiet place.

With our candles and our sparkly lights. Which we’ll have until the spring returns. Not for us going all dull again on the 6th January.

Bold Street, Christmas Day 2013.

Bold Street, Christmas Day 2013.

10. And for us this is a time of retreat 

Of gathering silence as nearly everyone else gets on with something else. These days now Sarah’s a funeral celebrant her work doesn’t slow down in the way our joint work used to. But still at the centre of it all there are days when we sit contentedly and peacefully outside of what society is doing.

Walking round the empty streets of the city once all the shopping has stopped. And the silence gathers.

For us this is a time of gathering retreat. Quietly withdrawing from the annual madness.

 

16 thoughts on “Christmas is coming: But not to our house

      1. Helen Devries

        The madness has started here already…and what offends me is the deliberate price hikes on ingredients for the traditional Christmas dish, the tamale.
        Each traditionally contains,meat or chicken, sweet pepper, tomato and potato….not much of each…but the prices of tomatoes and spuds have gone sky high and for poorer families even that additional strain on their budget makes for problems…while the somewhat better off have resource to credit at 25% or more.
        If ever there was a case for government regulation…

      2. Ronnie Hughes Post author

        Back here in near Germanic Europe where the Albert and Victoria version of ‘Christmas’ originated our equivalent of your Costa Rican price hike is the ‘pop-up-shop’. Sounds right on and independent, except in our case each year’s main pop-up is run by Harvey-Nicks – i.e. a shop unit a major corporate can reliably only rent for the last 2 months of each year. Moving in on a market the rest of the city’s artisan producers assiduously maintain the rest of the year. And stealing it.

  1. faymondo

    I’m a bah humbug in the “Christmas is for kids” camp at the moment. As a young child I soon got onto the this isn’t as good as it’s made out to be vibe. Worst thing I hate is the “Do you like it” question. It’s either obviously a boss prezzie or I’m far too polite to say “nah it’s s***” or these days “not more socks and bloody Lynx deodorant”

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      I was never too polite to call a shit present a shit present. So often people buy presents for the person they think you’re supposed to be. So I found the whole thing oppressive.

      Reply
  2. Cathy Alderson

    Christmas has become a complete Monster. You’re quite right.

    We’ve settled on a sort of middle ground. We organised a Christmas amnesty with everyone we used to buy for, about three years ago (late, I know) Now we just do birthdays, which is much more personal.

    I do, however, love my fresh tree, with lights and very traditional decorations and also a wreath for the front door. I think of it more as a mid winter celebration.

    We have a more special dinner than usual on Christmas Day, but don’t do that shopping that you see going on. Gargantuan trolleys, piled high with stuff “in case” You just have to say “Enough”. I’m glad we did.

    Reply
  3. Bex

    Oh yes, you are after my own heart on this subject. Without children in the mix for us, we can basically go about our normal daily lives, maybe taking the day off on the 25th (luckily we don’t have a two-day Christmas like you do in the UK), and just relaxing around the house, reading, having a slightly nicer than usual meal (this year it’ll be a lobster casserole – being married to a lobsterman!). The only concession one might see from me at this time of year are two tiny fake pine trees, only 18 inches high, each decorated with separate color combinations, one in the front “reading room” which is all red and orange large tree lights, and the other in the front living room, all blue, green and white lights. I officially have dubbed these two lighted trees as my Feel-Good-Trees

    They make me feel good when it gets dark at 4:30 pm now and they just brighten up a dark spot in each room, giving a warm glow. They don’t have anything to do with a holiday, however.

    And all those gifts over the years that have since been chucked out into the skip! Waste of hard-earned money…

    Happy Solstice!

    Reply

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