Against Christmas

We’re now well into the run-up to the festive season, a time when everybody looks forward to a few days of merriment and good cheer. By doing so, we exhibit the memory span of a goldfish, forgetting all about the utter nightmare that last year was, and which this year will be as well. Because Christmas, as she is practiced, sucks.

The basic principle from pagan times – eat a lot, get drunk, fall over, sleep till spring – is sound. However, this has been warped into something totally different, which is a whole lot more trouble than it’s worth. Now, this isn’t the usual tirade against the commercialization of Christmas – excessive consumption is almost its only saving grace. No, it’s just the sheer naffness, hypocrisy and pointless effort that aggrieves.

It tends to start with buying the presents. The horror! The horror! The expense is not, personally, a problem. It’s the sheer effort involved in slogging to get the damn things, panic rising in your throat as the day progresses, until desperation proves the mother of invention and you shell out for any old tat. With hundreds of millions of presents to be purchased nationwide, the resulting log-jam of the rude, the mad and the extremely ugly, make buying anything more than a paper-clip a hideous ordeal of ferocious proportions.

At least I don’t have kids to demand Bulimia Barbie at any cost — if they don’t get it, their classmates will sneer, they will be psychologically scarred for life, and it’ll be all your fault. Tough titty, tots: life’s like that, you don’t get what you ask for and the sooner kids realise that, the sooner we’ll end the “I want” culture. Say Rudolf’s got BSE and offer them reindeer pies instead.

Then there’s the crap which clogs up almost eve, medium. When was the last decent Christmas #1? The top 40 is crammed full of novelty records which wouldn’t get house room the rest of the year, while grandmothers inflict Cliff Richard on their unwilling descendants.

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 pretense, 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 genteelly 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.