In 1996, we had the Spice Girls (remember them? The correct answer to "Who's your favourite Spice Girl?" was, of course, "They're all talentless, ugly slags"), just ahead of a gang of kids mauling a Bob Dylan song, in order to wipe out one of the very few sports at which Britain is halfway good. As with music, so with movies and TV. Cinemas brim with "family entertainment", which usually means Disney's puerile moralism, and Arnold Schwarzenegger "comedies"; hell for the majority of the population who don't have kids. On TV, it's films that have been sanitised for our protection, more family dross, and wall-to-wall Christmas specials of programs that you didn't watch the rest of the year either. If something is crap in half-hour chunks, it's unlikely to be any better in feature-length episodes.
This is forgivable: after all, the difference between 99% rubbish and 99.9% rubbish is scant. Sadly, you're not even allowed to slump at home in front of the television, you are expected to spread good tidings of comfort and joy. This can be safely done by sending a card, with some banal sentiment such as "Thinking of you", which acquires an ironic charm when sent to someone about whom you don't give a toss. If you actually care about someone, you contact them during the year; a sudden pretence, after ignoring them since last Christmas, is the sort of rudeness you only get away with over the festive season.
But if there's one thing worse than distant relations, it's close ones, people with whom all you have in common are a few chromosomes, yet you are expected to make polite conversation and smile genteely as your uncle spews out his annual sherry-fuelled racist diatribe. And auntie is convinced that your idea of a wonderful time remains a game of ludo, rather than a session of torrid sex with your second cousin, who would appear to have not so much hit puberty, as been smashed headlong into it, propelled on a tidal wave of raging hormones.
Readers are warned that attempts to act on such urges are unlikely to be treated lightly, despite it being the time of year when "festive spirit" exacerbates the prevailing view that alcohol is an excuse for any atrocious behaviour. Those who decline to take part in idiotic rituals involving party hats, balloons and the office photocopier are labelled killjoys, as if there were any joy to be had watching your boss prove precisely what an obnoxious cretin he really is. Better to stick with the hordes of conveniently drunken secretaries that you will find in the gutter, assuming you can find an orifice free of vomit and other unpleasant bodily secretions. For this is the time of year when pubs that no-one would touch with a ten-foot pole for 11 months suddenly start employing Neanderthals on the door to say "sorry mate, those are trainers".
However, this particular problem comes to a climax not at Christmas, but at New Year, when you queue up to have the privilege of paying an exorbitant sum for entrance into an overcrowded club, in order to listen to someone else's choice of music at deafening volume, while paying over the odds for crap beer. The cloakroom will be full and they will run out of glasses behind the bar, because no-one with enough common sense to foresee such obvious problems works in a night-club. All of us are at home, with our own CD players and a stack of drinks of our own choice, drinking heavily to celebrate the end of another dreadful fortnight.
Whoever was responsible for Christmas should have been taken out and crucified. Indeed, I think you'll find he was. Maybe the Jews knew somehow that they were letting their descendants in for years of misery, and decided to get their retribution in early. I, for one, don't blame them a bit.