Isn’t it time to reinvent Christmas? Isn’t it time to banish this shallow commercial campaign that takes over our lives for about two months every year? Isn’t it time to replace it with something meaningful and genuinely caring?
Why do we let it happen? Why do we subject ourselves to this pressure, the very opposite of heartfelt generosity?
I’ve never been very good at it, I must confess. I’ve never been good at taking orders to be spontaneous. It just freezes me up and then I go out shopping and this terrible paralysis takes over and all I’m thinking is Jesus, save me! Which, I suppose, is a result for the religious proprietors of Christmas, however fleeting my feelings of fervour might be.
It’s not the present-giving that I detest. Far from it. I love giving presents and I do it all the time, but I do it at random moments of my own choosing throughout the year. What I dislike intensely is having to follow somebody else’s timetable. I do not like being ordered around, which is why I was never a great fit for structured organisations, but I especially dislike being ordered around by the corporate marketeers who have turned Christmas into the annoying spendfest it is today.
Oddly enough, and despite the paranoid bleatings of certain religious types, I have no objection at all to the religious element of the festival. What harm does it do? To each his own, and besides, the season has meaning for pagans and atheists too, so why not celebrate mid-winter together in peace? Who could object to that?
I’m all in favour of Christmas as long as the Ionanists don’t mind us celebrating Saturnalia too, though naturally we’d draw the line at the sort of depravity Pope Paul II engaged in, forcing Jews to race naked through the streets of Rome.
I don’t like that sort of thing, but I also don’t like the mindless trudging from one shop to the next in search of some material object that the recipient might or might not want. I don’t like the pressure. I don’t like the fact that many poor people simply cannot afford it and end up in debt to money-lenders. I don’t like the fact that childrens’ expectations have been artificially raised by relentless pushing of the Santa Claus trope, resulting in unbearable pressure on parents to match those demands.
When I was growing up, I can’t say we were barefoot and destitute, but we hadn’t been sold the blasphemous concept of Santa Claus an an alternative God who was in many ways more powerful and accessible than the standard deity. After all, even today the fervent believer only hopes his prayers will persuade the all-powerful one to pick him out of the crowd, like a US president pointing at a voter for the cameras. He can’t be certain. Even today, the fervent believer can’t be sure that, when he prays, his god will spare this one and kill that one instead, but his children are certain — quite sure — that their deity, the fat red god of the chimney, can and will deliver every time, no matter what they ask for. And he does it by magic.
These are the expectations we have given our children of Christmas and ironically, their expectations of the big fat red god are far greater than their expectations of the big bearded cloud-living god.
All this and Heaven too.
When we were kids, our hopes were modest enough, but it seems to me that parents now, and especially those of limited means, are making superhuman efforts to ensure that their children aren’t disappointed, but of course, that’s an entire discussion in itself. Should children be given such expectations? Should we place ourselves in thrall to a recently-invented construct like Santa Claus? Perhaps, taking a leaf from the book of our mainland European friends in Bavaria, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia, we need something to leaven the expectations of our young ones. They have this character, Krampus, who accompanies Saint Nicholas on his rounds. None of your namby-pamby liberalism there, let me tell you.
I think it’s time we looked at ourselves and brought a bit of Krampus into Christmas.
Nothing like a little sourness to set off the sweet.