Once again the year winds up and once again we find ourselves caught in a degrading orbit around the Christmas singularity. It starts small around October as the crap in the shops starts to take on a distinctly ‘jolly’ tone. Everyone rolls their eyes and goes about their business, but all too soon those early seeds spread and bloom into full-blown infestations of tinsel and bizarrely winter-themed decorations under the blazing, train-track warping heat of the Australian sun. We try to ignore it, but you can smell the panic in the air, the slight breathless anxiety as eyes stray to giant plastic snowflakes and snap away before the looming specter of the Christmas crush renders us gibbering on the floor.
But this comforting ignorance rapidly collapses into horrified, despairing, Stockholm-syndrome compliance as the carols begin. Oh, the carols. They reach out at you from every shop, every radio station, even public spaces are no longer safe as normal standards of public decency are abandoned and the shrill demands of the jolly slowly grind you under their heel. Resistance is futile in a way that George Orwell could only dream of, and before long you find yourself happily humming a story of reindeer persecution (it’s ok, they eventually found a use for the deviant), and realise that you too have finally succumbed.
But mere acquiescence is not enough! Oh no, you must dance for the entertainment of Christmas! Run! run! through unbearably crowded complexes in pursuit of something that will satisfy the completely arbitrary standards of gift quality we impose on ourselves, despite the fact that it’s utterly taboo for the recipient to complain about what they receive! Wallow in the ridiculous paradox of a holiday based around a poor carpenter preaching love over greed, being celebrated with gratuitous consumption and soul-destroying stress! Smile! SMILE! Santa is watching…
And woe betide anyone who musters enough strength to resist this programming and voice an objection about these things, for they shall be set upon as a leper and a traitor by their brethren and drowned out as a million souls cry out in denial, desperate to shield what remains of their minds from the reality they now inhabit. “Grinch!” they cry, “Why do you want to bring everyone down? What do you mean you don’t like doing endless laps of a crowded shopping centre, trying to find a material object that best represents your love for your father? What good is love unless you know how much it costs?”.
But there is a glimmer of light in this boundless darkness. Every year small pockets of resistance form against the brutal tyranny of the season, closeted away in homes and churches, parks and community centres, where – after the appropriate sacrifices of gifts to appease the forces of jolly – families and friends enjoy each others company in quiet and contentedness, conduct their personal rituals of togetherness and brotherhood, and listen to teachings of a man who gave everything for a message of love. And eventually the strength of these gathering grows and gives humanity the hope it needs to make it through the waning blight of Christmas and into another year of life.
Until next year…
Well that was fun. On a slightly more serious note though, Christmas is a funny beast and I have a very similar feelings about it to the Melbourne Cup; I love it despite the fact that it seems to consist entirely of things I don’t like. Rampant, pointless consumerism, ridiculous levels of stress, insane rituals that would have you admitted or possibly arrested if you tried them any other time of year (seriously, Santa Clause? A reclusive, trespassing man in a costume and you’re eager to put your terrified, struggling children on his lap?).
Yeah you could argue this is all trimming around the essential core of Christmas, which is being with your family, but how exactly is that different from any other family gathering I may or may not attend during the year? What makes this one special other than the fact we’re told it’s special? Isn’t is a tad disturbing that we need to specify a particular day where we have to be nice to each other, as if it’s the exception? That goes for you too Christians – for some reason I doubt your omnipotent deity is terribly impressed that you think he only needs this sort of attention once a year. And he’s omnipotent so he knows exactly what you’ve been up to the rest of the year as well.
But there’s no denying it, is there? Despite all the observations I can throw at it, Christmas is sort of special. And what would be the point in ruining that just because it doesn’t make sense? Hell, if anything it makes a lot more sense to behave like we do at Christmas all the time.
So Merry Tradition-for-the-sake-of-tradition Anachronistic Somewhat-religious Consumptionfest everyone! May you embrace the best parts of it and spare yourself the dumb ones.
I’m taking a couple of weeks off and will be back in the new year.
Unlike Christmas, ethics never sleep…