As I walked into Tchibo in the N1 Centre this morning, I heard a familiar annoying sound. Coming over the loudspeakers was a kitschy rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. “Lumme,” methought, with my usual perspicacity, “Christmas must be coming.” And of course it is. Shop assistants are busily packing away the usual goods and setting up row upon row of Christmas “fayre”. It’s enough to make you shudder.
I make no secret of the fact that I normally dislike Christmas and can’t wait for it to be over. I seem not to be alone in this. Every year, complaints grow louder and more numerous. People bemoan the expense, having to spend time with in-laws they hate, the fact that transport and all the other facilities that make life agreeable throughout the year close down, and so on and so on.
Another annoyance is to be berated by dimwitted Christians from Archbishops down on the theme of the “true meaning of Christmas” which we, non-believers that we are, apparently fail to observe. As if we gave a damn. Almost as annoying (despite the fact that I have done it myself, as you will see if you bother to scroll back through these pages), is the answering chorus of people trying to prove that “Christians stole Christmas”, or some such piece of pointless sophistry.
Christians didn’t steal Christmas, of course: Christmas, as its name suggests, is a Christian festival, invented, maintained and no doubt patented by the early church and observed one way or the other by Christians ever since. They have as much right to it and to celebrate it in their own way as members of other religions have to observe and celebrate their festivals, just as long as they leave the rest of us to enjoy the bank holiday as we wish to do so.
What the “Christians stole Christmas” mob means, of course, is that before the Jesus freaks came to these sea-scoured shores, the natives had a perfectly good winter festival of their own, called Yule, or whatever the local variant was. The Jesus Mafia, having got their hands on the levers of power replaced Yule with a festival celebrating the birth of their dead-but-not-forgotten capo in the hope that this would turn said natives away from their own religion and encourage adherence to the new one. Some people today, disenchanted with Christmas and all it stands for, make a virtue of celebrating “Yule” instead.
So what’s wrong with that, you ask? Nothing, I reply, as long as you leave me out of it. Yule might be pagan but it is still religious, whether or not the Yule-celebrators realize this. Expect, any time now, some busybody to start ranting at us on the “True meaning of Yule”.
The point I wish to make is two-fold: 1. I have nothing against a winter festival and in fact think it a jolly good idea and 2. when did anyone need an excuse for a party?
In Britain, December must surely be the most miserable month of the year. It’s dark, cold and damp. Any sensible person, on hearing the alarm go off on a gloomy Monday morning in December, fervently desires to turn over and go back to sleep. But December is not the end of it. There is more to come. The dark, cold and damp weather can go on for months. We really do need something to inject a little jollity into the proceedings. Call it Christmas, call it Yule, call it Winter Festival, call it what you will, the important thing is that we should have it. Be religious about it, pagan about it or atheist about it, the choice is yours, but let’s enjoy it for goodness’ sake.
Having got it, what do we do with it? Well, that’s up to you. If eating and drinking too much is your bag, go for it. Why not? If you want to be religious about, OK, likewise, just don’t thrust it in my face. If you want a reason for having fun, it shouldn’t be hard to find one. If all else fails, make one up.
Last year, Tigger and I spent the December holiday in Margate visiting Tigger’s parents. We had to stay in a hotel and to help keep costs down, we mostly picnicked in the room, though we did find the amiable Cafe del Mar open and have some meals there. We have decided to stay at home this year and to make day trips to Margate to see family. This will be cheaper than taking a hotel room and we will have the pleasure of sleeping in our own bed in our newly refurbished home.
I think this is going to be a really good December holiday and for once I am looking forward to it.