Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas is Coming

I just noticed that we’ve entered the month of December – and yes, I know a few days have passed already, but I’m getting older and time has become very flexible. Unlike myself.

I have to confess that my enthusiasm for the Yuletide celebrations has waned over the years. When I was a toddler and old enough to understand numbers, I recall maintaining a – then popular – countdown to the ‘Big Day’. Every day, every hour, seemed to last forever and Christmas took on a new dimension – a day that never seemed to come any closer. If we could have afforded the paper, I would probably have registered every passing minute in an effort to speed things up.

Just lately I have to keep double-checking the diary to make sure I haven’t missed it.

I’m not saying I’ve turned into Ebenezer Scrooge exactly, although I must confess that there are a few things that Noel (Christmas not Edmonds) brings which make me cringe. The excitement I used to feel – back when Scrooge was not long out of nappies himself – has given way to a quiet dread.

These days I hear little ones talking about how many ‘sleeps’ they have left until the chimney gets an unexpected visitor (and more than one wondering just what a chimney actually is), and in these enlightened times there are even the occasional debates about whether dear old Santa shouldn’t be on a register somewhere given his predilection for visiting kiddies in their rooms in the middle of the night.

Even the term ‘sleeps’ is a relatively modern notion to me – we used to count the days (and, ok, hours, minutes, and for the more mathematically capable, the seconds). When I hear a little one say that there are still ‘twenty-five sleeps’ to go (normally on the 10th or 11th because educational standards seemed to have slipped) I’m tempted to suggest to them that they grow up fast with insomnia. That condition means that the number of ‘sleeps’ is radically reduced…

Then there are the little rituals and arcane knowledge that seem to be slipping away from us. I used to be able to name all of Santa’s reindeer (no joke, we really do have dogs called Donner and Blitzen – but named in German (they are Dobermanns) after the weather conditions on the grounds that one is thunderously plump and the other is lighting fast) – but these days the children are virtually unaware what reindeer are. I heard the term ‘posh venison’ used the other day.

The dear hearts even seem to believe that ‘naughty or nice’ is a no-brainer since you only have to watch TOWIE to know that no one could possibly be nice all year. Or even for ten minutes if they watch the extended highlights.

Every Santa’s Grotto – surely they were never as obviously cardboard when I was a toddler? – appears more like an equal opportunities employer with every passing year and I’ve even seen a clearly female Santa outside the local supermarket this past week. I’ve nothing against women (nothing at all at my age…) but surely that is one element of the story of Christmas that shouldn’t be fiddled with? Er, changed?

This year I‘m even suffering from the third number one version of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ and still not one person has said ‘Of course they don’t – they don’t celebrate that Western holiday’…

But I digress. As usual.

I perfectly understand that the meaning of holidays such as Christmas becomes lighter over the years – it’s a long, long time since I was the Innkeeper trying to explain to a livid Joseph that we weren’t a maternity unit and in any case wasn’t he even a tiny bit suspicious about the whole paternity thing? – but it’s not just the weight behind them that seems to have changed.

For sure, the Christmas holiday has taken on a new meaning for me (a week off work seems to hold more sway than a miracle birth these days) but the whole business has become something much greater than it used to be as well. And ‘business’ is the operative word.

There seems to be expectation from little ones these days about the value of the gifts they will receive (and heaven help a relation who doesn’t deliver). I hear them comparing notes about which games they will receive for their computer, and just what that will tell them about how much mummy or daddy (or that nice guy with the big wallet) loves them. At least our dogs will be happy to receive a nice chew. Just like on any other day of the year. (Or hour, or minute – Donner really is a pig).

In any case, the Christmas holiday is still a celebration and still sees families convene for often the first time all year – and that’s a lovely thing. Some public houses still close for a couple of hours just before the Queen gives her annual broadcast (which she has done every single one of the fifty-odd years that I can recall – yes, I’m that old).

But if you want to really understand just what it all now means to the younger generation, consider this. The post you are reading has deliberately been delayed by twenty-four hours – not that many of you will complain or even notice. Now can you imagine the number of kiddie-led wars that would start if you tried the same thing with Christmas itself this year? You might just find out what it’s like to wear holly and ivy. Internally.

 I feel like closing with a gentle moan about the Christmas Sales but that’s old news now since a lot of them started in November – which is rather my point – or about how expensive decorations have become. But what’s the use? Christmas has always been expensive and time-consuming (for the adult generations, anyway), and if I’m honest I can recall virtually begging for one particular toy one year and being a total brat about the whole thing (be fair, it was a remote-controlled Dalek…). I can’t be a Scrooge about Christmas in the twenty-first century because nothing has really changed deep down.

Christmas and Chaos start with the same letters (and I’m not talking about the badly-spelled ones that Post Office workers giggle about until March), and maybe that’s both right and the way it’s always been (fun and in-fighting). At least it brings a break for me and makes sure my bank account is thoroughly cleaned (out).

I know there are still sixteen sleeps left, but Happy Christmas! (Enjoy it before junior decides he doesn’t like Lego any more…)

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