Forget about the stars, the Wise Men and the Baby Jesus. Christmas is all about family, says Carrie Quinlan
So Christmas is too commercial, should be called Winterval, goes on too long, we’ve seen all the films before, it’s not like anyone believes in it anyway, except those people with the matching jumpers and the pursed lips, it’s just all about binge drinking now, I didn’t even want this, not Noel Edmonds again blah blah blah blah and a bah humbug to you too.
The festive season has long been a battleground between the Christians and the Capitalists and, as someone who’s not so much in the middle as off doing something else entirely, I’m bored with it. Are shopping and church really the only options we have? Is the choice between the Bible and the Argos catalogue the best we can do?
I’ll admit to a vested interest. I love Christmas. I don’t care what anyone says. First off, as far as being too commercial goes, giving presents and, more importantly, getting them are part of the season and presents have to be bought: no matter what we tell our children, homemade presents are rubbish. So, when people say Christmas has got too commercial, what they really mean is that the home-made raffia tat and drawings they gave their loved ones last year didn’t go down too well.
And presents are hardly a modern invention. Even Jesus got presents, and he was made of magic. And, in the finest Christmas tradition, those presents were bath salts and cash. If it’s good enough for the poor man’s Harry Potter, it’s good enough for me (although I can’t help feeling that if he’d been given socks and the new James Blunt album, he might have given up on the human race and stuck to making shelves).
It’s also a natural progression. Christmas has always been about having stuff sold to us – for most of the last two millennia it’s been eternal salvation, now it’s The Wizard of Oz remastered on DVD. At least you can be sure you’ll get what you pay for with the latter, unless you buy it from that dodgy-looking gentleman selling it from a cheap holdall in a café.
None of which is to say that the corporate pigs are justified in turning a time of year when we smiled over Christmas cards into one when we weep over credit cards. But even they might be losing (a faint hope, but my own). I’ve lost track of the number of goats people have bought me over the last few years. Poor families in Africa must have thousands of them by now, they won’t know where to put them. I can imagine hordes of goats roaming around the place bored senseless, getting in everyone’s way, stealing traffic cones and wearing hoodies while all around them moan about “kids today”. Still, a chicken to a needy family means one less Remington Fuzz-away for the stocking, and that can’t be a bad thing.
Even commercialism is starting to look like a quaint old tradition. We still mark the time running up to the festivities in “shopping days”, harking back to ye olden times when Boots and Woolworths were sometimes shut.
It strikes me that neither consumerism nor Christianity is what Christmas is about (despite the name. But, hey, if Eostre, the pagan goddess of the dawn, can lend her name to a Christian festival, I don’t see why Christ can’t lend his to a humanist one). Christmas Day is about spending time with family. Just as New Year’s Eve is about spending time with friends, and New Year’s Day is about spending time with Alka-Seltzer.
I know that when Christmas arrives, I’ll be where I’ve always been – sitting around a roaring television with my enormous family, members of which will either be running around on a Satsuma-and-chocolate-fuelled sugar high or napping in a chair. I haven’t decided which camp I’ll be in yet, but I’ll be happy. Merry Winterval.