That time of year has come around yet again. That golden-hued, pine-scented, tinsel-strewn time we call Christmas. Department stores are bedecked in their finest decorations, festive adverts outweigh non-festive ones 2:1 and the pressure to purchase is building. It is the most wonderful time of the year…or at least that’s what every shop sound system insists upon. And indeed, Christmas is a beautiful time in which families and friends reunite for food, drink and terrible cracker jokes.
There’s just one problem: all of these things are already in full swing, and we’re barely half way through November.
It is this crazed anticipation that has rendered me firmly anti-Christmas.
There are a lot of you who will undoubtedly call me a Scrooge for daring to express my misgivings, but I must make it clear that it isn’t Christmas itself that I don’t like but rather the prematurity and hyperbole of it all. The nervy anticipation of it. The Christmas-Cards-In-The-Shops-Come-August, Elf come September and First-Christmas-Tree-Sighting come October of it.
Christmas isn’t a mere 24-hour (or 72, allowing for the 24th and 26th) cycle anymore. The fact is that the lifespan of each separate Christmas lasts nigh on a year. If December is host to the event itself, January and February are spent in financial desolation, June, July and August in preparation and September, October and November in excited anticipation, then March, April and May are pretty much the only moments in which we’re Crimbo-free. And even then the battle scars of yet another December 25 can be seen in the clearance sales, extraneous bathroom products and lights that haven’t yet been taken down.
I hate the predictability that this exhausting and drawn out life cycle has given Christmas. I could draw up a timeline of the coming weeks, tracking exactly the moments in which people publicly announce they are watching Elf, losing it over the Coca Cola advert and wrapping their presents, and I bet I’d be almost spot on. So repetitive has the holiday become, that there’s no life left in it anymore; no spontaneity or soul.
Although a 21st century spender and definite fan of a good label myself, I also find the extent to which Christmas has been commercialised rather disturbing. Not because the holiday is now widely accepted as a secular as well as a religious one, but rather due to the fact that the entire thing has become a tired pantomime of over-hashed adverts and marketing ploys that view no subject as too sacred to utilise. Did you know that the legend of Santa Claus is commonly depicted wearing red only because Coca Cola represent him so? How about that brands like VOGUE and Fortnum & Mason start intensive work on Christmas as early as June? Even some of today’s most time-honoured traditions now stem directly from massive corporations (John Lewis advert, I am of course looking at you).
But above all of these things, above even (i’ll admit it) the sense of jealousy I get from seeing families un-blighted by divorce all come together for a day of joy, it’s the ability that Christmas has to distract us that really unnerves me the most.
How disturbing it is to watch people wish the many days away in honour of the one; the advent calendars we worship acting as a the chalked tally chart on a prisoner’s cell wall. Dramatic perhaps, but that’s how I see it.
Christmas is essentially the Friday of the year; that ever-elusive moment that denies its worshipers true happiness as it approaches, comes briefly into being, and then disappears again as quickly as it arrived. Never has one holiday so successfully made prey of so many people’s mindfulness as this one. The Christmas hysteria extends far beyond genuine excitement: it’s a concept on which to hang happiness like stockings. Not content with the moment in which we are living, instead we fixate on a vaguely distant and fleeting one.
Rita Mae Brown said that “happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do