Somehow, every year, the media dredge up new perspectives at Christmas, incurring my admiration because I confess freely I cannot. Christmas confounds me. Miraculous survivals, acts of goodness and extraordinary achievements are being reported on every side. Why do I miss them all? Why do I not know where every royal person is spending their festive season – and why do I not care?
Frankly, I don’t know why any aspect of Christmas should be news. After all, it begins unfailingly around 1st November, and swoops in like a great dark cloud, gushing forth episode after episode of trauma to finally collapse like a half-set jelly on December 25th. Equally routinely, we are to be found sweeping up its victims in the cold dawn of Boxing Day, amidst the pitiful groans of the suffering, a secondary feast of medicaments and salves, and ladles brimming with schadenfreude.
So what’s new?
With my Bah-Humbug specs planted firmly on my nose, I am going to issue you with an invitation you will rarely get: how do you really feel about Christmas? I am going to ask you for an extraordinary degree of honesty; for truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Where are you reading this?
Are you at the airport? Have you been there for more than five hours because your plane is late, your cabin crew are on strike, or there is a bomb scare?
Are you on the motorway? Have you been stuck in traffic for more than five hours, missing your plane because it was the only one today that departed on time?
Honestly, what is it like being marooned in that changing cubicle at John Lewis, convinced that if you try to step outside the mob will kill you?
On a register of one to ten, how joyful do you feel about spending eight hours of Monday in the close company of Uncle Freddy after he has stuffed himself to the gills with turkey and drunk enough whisky to sink the Nimitz? Do you really want to hear that song again?
How do you describe the complexity of your feelings, watching the educational toy which cost you a hundred pounds (give or take a penny) being systematically ignored by its recipients in favour of the cardboard box in which it arrived?
“He’ll grow into it.” His mother assures you.
Is there a moment more memorable than that in which ‘our youngest’ falls on top of the laptop you bought for ‘our eldest’? It will stay with you, will that crunching sound – a memory to carry to your grave. The family rows, the burnt mince pies, the drinks you never normally touch and certainly shouldn’t, the vomiting dogs and the panicking cats – with so much living to pack into twenty-four hours; no wonder Christmas’s popularity endures. We humans are naturally masochistic, after all.
Cynical? Me? Hah! I confess it. I love watching others engorge themselves in Bacchanalian feasting, while I consume my allowance of boiled fowl and steamed broccoli, and I may even have a sip of wine or two, whether or not I am forced to go and lie down afterwards. While the young whirl and screech about me, I will take my ease watching Julie Andrews doing her own whirling and screeching on top of that damned hill and I won’t be envious – no, I will not!
I suspect though, like most of you, I will be glad when the day is over, and I am able to wash up, wipe up, clear up, sober up, and go exhausted to my bed (or whatever appalling equivalent has been reserved for me).
All right, I will acknowledge that it is not all doom and gloom, this Christmas thing. There are experiences not to be missed, pleasures to be found. Yet how fresh and crisp the dawn of the twenty-sixth, the promise of another year! How sweetly the robin, his voice no longer drowned by one hundred and forty decibels of Black Sabbath, sings! And how freely the EBayers bid for that educational toy, in the year’s only real sale!
Happy Christmas, everyone!