Merry Christmas! or Bah Humbug! Depending on your view, Christmas is either an annual orgy of overconsumption or a time to celebrate the birth of Shane McGowan, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
When it comes to Christmas, I’m ambivalent about it and borders on full-blown hostility. According to our Twitter poll, Christmas shares the opinion:
Do you like Christmas?
– Slugger O’Toole (@SluggerOToole) December 18, 2020
On the negative side, I am appalled by over-shopping. The amount of junk people buy for gifts makes me desperate. All the clothes bought for people whose wardrobes are already moaning with clothes that have never been worn. The novelties such as mini pool tables or USB vacuum cleaners for your keyboard. The garbage books like a “Cats Guide to Golf” or “Ladybird Guide To Brexit” etc. All gifts that are unpacked and then after a few days end up in the back of the closet or rather in the trash can. My problem with gifts is from an environmental point of view. The trash is breathtaking. There is no more depressing sight than to visit the recycling center after Christmas and see the amount of stuff people collect, most of which are not recyclable. In particular, unwanted toys are very harmful.
A better tradition is to simply buy your own gift so that you can get something you actually want. I treated myself to the new iPhone 12 mini. The woman said her mother bought her own gifts, wrapped them up, and then acted in surprise when she opened them. Oh wow, the new iPad I bought this Tuesday, exactly what I always wanted.
While for some it is the best time of the year, for others it is a time of loneliness and melancholy. All these missing seats at the dining table when we remember people who are no longer with us. Or maybe your family members might not make it home for Christmas or they are in quarantine. Christmas is also a peak time for alcohol abuse and domestic violence. In a way, I like the melancholy nature of Christmas. I withdraw from forced luck. The pressure to have a wonderful holiday season! is sure to trigger a feck away from me.
The arts have long recognized the dark side of Christmas. “It’s a wonderful life” is the story of a broken man who desperately wants to throw himself off a bridge. I think we all like the idea of having a Clarence, the angel, in our lives. Someone who can show us what is important in life and guide us back on the path of salvation.
The best Christmas carols are those tinged with sadness.
They sing “Deck the Halls”
But it’s not like Christmas at all
I remember when you were here
Oh and all the fun we had last year.
From baby, please come home
The original opening texts for ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ were:
“Merry Christmas / It could be your last / Next year we might all live in the past.”
Judy Garland found it too bleak and had it toned down. When the queen of tragedy tells you something is too bleak, you know you have a problem.
But for me Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ is the best song to wallow in Christmas misery. For a full analysis of the song, read this.
It comes at Christmas
They cut down trees
They put up reindeer
Sing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could keep walking
I can imagine quite a number of people will be Maudlin drunks who will cry to this song later today.
We create completely unrealistic expectations for Christmas. The pressure to make the day special is so great that reality could never meet expectations. Many years ago, the late great Gerry Anderson told a story about seeing a woman in Sainsbury burst into tears when she exclaimed that Christmas was ruined because they ran out of brandy butter.
A better strategy is to do the bare minimum. I no longer buy gifts for anyone but our son. In the world of prime next day delivery, we all have way more than any of us need. Instead, we donate money to charity. A quick trip to Lidl or Sainsbury’s is more than enough to bring together everything you need for a Christmas celebration. We used this week to go to some restaurants. While I was enjoying the Bengal Brasserie’s 2-course lunch for a decade the other day, I got to see people lining up in the cold to get to the M&S shop across from us. I know where I would rather be. Restaurants were the safest place this week, yesterday we went to the Little Wing Pizzeria three times.
Christmas is also the perfect example of the opposite of our humanity. There are those of us with full houses who long for solitude, on the other end there are those of us who long for company.
I realize this post is a little bleak, so I should list some positive points. The big one for me is the Christmas break. Many of us are fortunate to have two weeks off to relax. I know not all jobs are vacant, but if you do there is a good chance to recharge the batteries. It can also be very enjoyable to take new walks during the holidays. In normal times it is nice to visit family and friends.
I can understand the temptation to go to Lanzarote or someone who is sunny. A more appealing idea is to go to Donegal or somewhere with friends. Walks on a stormy beach, then pints and chips in a pub with an open fire sounds like heaven.
There are some good TV shows and movies available right now. ‘Angela’s Wish’ on Netflix even brought a tear to my cynical eyes. There’s also the dubious nostalgic feast of a Northern Irish Christmas on the BBC.
Here is your thought for the day, maybe you shouldn’t enjoy Christmas. Instead, we collect memories. In the years to come, when all the children are out of the house, we will look back at the photos and remember the good times. We’ll work out the bad parts or turn the disasters into good family stories to tell every Christmas.
However you spend the day, feel free to use the comments for a quick chat. We can switch between happy and sad together. You can share your memories of the past Christmas season or make us laugh with your story of Christmas outings.
I promise when civilization returns I will organize a Slugger Christmas party and you are all invited.
Photo by Free-Photos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA
I help keep the good ship Slugger afloat by running the business and technical matters.