Archive | December, 2013

I QUITE LIKE MINCE PIES.

27 Dec

Well, it’s now December 27th, the first officially “normal” day after the great Christmas festival. I can feel the first stirrings of freedom coursing through my veins. Today, I can do what I want and nobody will care or even notice. Nobody will ask me what my plans are. For the past few weeks I have had to explain to all and sundry what I am doing for Christmas, what I am having for my dinner on December 25th, how many people I’m going to share that day with etc. I have also had to listen to what others are doing on that day, whether they are going away or how many people are coming to stay. I always suspect that there is more than a slight element of one-upmanship in all this. Am I a bit of a social failure because I have spent the apologetic-sounding “quiet” Christmas with just my wife? People who spend Christmas on their own are pitied, whilst those who enter a hectic social whirl, surrounded by hordes of friends and relatives, are regarded as a success . Today this is emphasised even more by social media. We get instant pictoral reports of what a good time everyone is having.
Since my teenage years, I have had mixed feelings about Christmas. In an earlier blog I referred to the scales dropping from my eyes, one by one. First I found that Santa Claus didn’t exist and it was really my parents filling the stocking. Then I rejected Christianity and came to suspect that the nativity story is made up, which it probably is. The shepherds wouldn’t have been watching their flocks by night in the middle of winter as it would have been too cold. The sheep would have been indoors. Next I rejected the idea of stuffing myself with rich food including the poor traditional dead bird. Finally I came to loathe the excessive consumerism and materialism that reaches a frenzy at Christmas. Why do we keep buying presents for people who don’t really need them? It’s nice to give but is it worth going into debt for? ( as some people do.)
I enjoyed the family aspect of Christmas however and liked the idea of people making an effort to keep in touch or get together. It was great having time off work to spend quality time with loved ones. I especially liked this aspect of the festival when I was a young child, and later, when I had children of my own, the “magic” of Christmas came back into my life through them. I also enjoyed the evergreen tree, the baubles, the candles and the colourful flashing lights. I still do, and love seeing the dark, winter streets lit up by everyone’s home- made version of Blackpool Illuminations. Some people go way over the top of course, ( another attempt at one-upmanship?) but even that raises a laugh and adds entertainment value to the otherwise drab days of December. I like the lights so much that I often refer to Christmas as the Midwinter Festival of Light, which it originally was.
So every December a battle goes on inside me between those aspects of the festival that I like and those that I could do without. Sometimes the pros outweigh the cons. At other times, it’s the opposite way round. It’s like a constant see-saw going up and down in my mind. I do like many aspects of Christmas. It’s just that I hate the immense social and peer pressures that demand that I conform. As Advent begins, I feel the straightjacket of conformity slowly tightening around me. If I want to do something different from the majority, I am called names — “Spoilsport”, ” Scrooge ” or “Bah Humbug”. Charles Dickens and his “A Christmas Carol” have a lot to answer for. Usually I succumb in order to have a quiet life. I try to avoid the excesses and just go with the flow. If I made a stand and opted out of Christmas altogether, many people would feel I’m being rude and anti-social. Some of my loved ones might even get upset and I wouldn’t want that.
So I take a deep breath and send the cards, buy the presents and tell everyone what I’m up to on December 25th. I really enjoy singing carols and wassailing ( I’m in a community choir), receiving cards and letters ( except the boring showy-offy round- robin letters) and seeing the light shows. I love mulled wine and even quite like mince pies. ( well the first dozen anyway.) Yes, Christmas has many lovely aspects but I’m still pleased it’s December 27th!