CHRISTMAS

Christmas

A christian holiday celebrating the birth of christ

Now I am not a religious man, but I know that jesus christ was supposedly born on the twenty fourth or twenty fifth of december a couple of thousand years ago, and following his birth, three wise men allegedly travelled many miles, guided by a star which led them to a place called bethlehem, where they presented him with three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

That is the sum total of my knowledge of the origins of this festival.

Christmas was always a magical time for me when I was young. My parents always had a christmas tree decorated with plastic balls, fairy lights, tinsel, and either an angel or a star atop; and I had a stocking at the end of my bed so santa (father christmas) could leave me something small like a satsuma, or an apple. On christmas eve, I would go to bed early, excited by the imminent arrival of the aforementioned santa (that this had any religious significance was above me, and even if I had known about it, would have meant nothing compared to the mountain of presents I was expecting the next day).

Early next morning, I would rise, hoping it would be snowing (apparently christmas is nicer in the snow: it makes it more “magical”), but even when I looked out and found it just grey and wet, it didn’t matter; I would rush down to the tree and start checking which cards had my name on them. After an hour or so, my mum and dad would come down, and turn on the christmas tree. We would all still be in our pyjamas, but within a couple of minutes the present giving would begin in earnest.

As always, there were many, many presents, and my dad and I rushed to open ours, carelessly ripping the wrapping paper that my mum had spent hours perfecting. After that was done, it was time to get ready to go to our neighbours for christmas drinks.

To me, christmas day seemed to be a day where the grown-ups had a good excuse to get completely sloshed, before eating a massive turkey meal, whilst wearing a stupid paper hat and telling jokes out of the christmas crackers. This would be followed by christmas pudding, watching the queen’s speech, and passing out on the sofa. For me it was a great time – that is, until my dad left us.

The next christmas, something was different. The presents still came thick and fast, but my father wasn’t around, it was just me and my mum.

We still went to the neighbours, and she still drank too much, but this time instead of the usually happy table there was a sad silence, and my mum would sit and cry the whole evening.

Suddenly christmas wasn’t such a magical time for me any longer. The lead up to christmas day represented the anticipation of my mother’s sadness, but that’s enough of my drivelling on, let’s celebrate!

And celebrate we do.

It’s a time of cheer, when families get together to drink and be merry; a time to consume and show off, a time where we can let our hair down, and not worry about any problems we may be having. If you’re a christian you will probably go to church and sing a few hymns, but after that it’s back to the real business of enjoying yourself.

I’m sorry if you come from a culture that doesn’t celebrate christmas and you’re reading this, especially if you live in the uk, where everything is closed, and there’s nothing to do.

Still you could always work and provide us good “christians” with a valuable service, such as making sure we can still buy petrol, and other goods.

Sorry, but christmas doesn’t hold a lot for me. I see it as an excuse for anglo-saxons to get drunk and abuse each other, and get into more debt. Still, at least they are adding to the economies coffers whilst avoiding reality. Whilst christmas is magical for those with money and a stable home life, it is the most depressing time for those who don’t, like people with no job, or people who come from a broken home.

For them, they get depressed because they see everyone else having “fun.” They may even feel angry and think: “Why are they enjoying themselves, and I’m not?”

But christmas fun is an illusion, albeit it one you can touch.

Some of you may accuse me of being a spoilsport, or even being a non-believer, but the purpose of this discussion is not to criticise, but to find out what is really going on in the mind at christmas time, especially here in the west.

If there is a “magical” energy at christmas, can you guess what might be causing it?

In the northern hemisphere, november comes, and winter looms; the skies darken, the leaves fall from the trees, and the light starts to fade earlier, and earlier; whilst in the southern hemisphere, winter is passing into spring, and the sun is getting hotter, but worldwide, the corporate santa wagon is just getting into full steam. Christmas is being created, all for us. Plastic decorations start going up in the shops, images of “santa” are appearing everywhere, christmas tree farms open their doors after a year of silent growth; the retail musak changes from mind bending pop, to christmas carols we all know and love. Colourful street lights are turned on by d-list celebrities, and throughout the land, people are climbing into red santa outfits and pulling on false white beards. On television, the adverts change to include images of smiling reindeer, and jolly fat men ready to dish out presents to all. There are sleigh bells in the background, images of happiness abound…

And guess what?

We get caught up in the whole process of mass retail consumerism, masquerading as a time for giving and sharing!

The whole christmas roller-coaster first hit me when I was living in australia. Here I was, standing in shorts and sandals, and all around me were images of a cold christmas wonderland! It made me sick to see all the people rushing around like mad things trying to get “one last present” for the kids, as if their happiness depended on receiving a multitude of toys. Then it struck me.

Maybe people’s happiness did depend on receiving presents.

When I brought this up with friends I was accused of being really negative and miserable, and “if I didn’t like it here I could go back to england.”

But that feeling stayed with me, year after year, and still does. This so called “magical” day is over in 24 hours, but there is a whole industry addicting us to it for the 12 months leading up to it.

I even saw a christmas hamper saving scheme advertised in january for the following year. “What waste,” I thought. “What time, energy, and money goes into this one day, all for a small slice of psychological happiness? Is this what we have become? The most intelligent species on the planet only concerned with even more greed and desire than we normally exhibit. What progress!”

Whether I think it is a waste of planetary resources and an unhealthy addiction will probably mean nothing to you. You won’t let me spoil your day of fun for you or your children. “How can he deny the little ones! They just want to see santa! What’s the harm of that?”

Maybe in the “spirit of christmas” it’s good that people are nice to each other for one day of the year, but can’t you see how ridiculous the whole thing is? Why can’t we be nice to each other all year? There is nothing wrong with giving each other small gifts, but why not give them for no reason, rather than because it’s christmas? I know that whatever else you decide to change after reading this book, the celebration of international present day will not be one of them, but can I ask you to do one thing? Sit and reflect for a short time on this day.

A time for quiet meditative reflection

Although I will be spending the day with my girlfriend’s family.

A family who do not share my views, I plan to spend part of my day sitting, quietly reflecting on what I have created in the world… 1 December 26th 2007.

Christmas is now passed, and as I expected, the christmas I wanted to create didn’t happen! The whole time was noisy and frivolous, with too much drinking and eating, and swapping of many presents. I found I was in so much conflict during this day.

On the one hand, I wanted no part of it, and wanted to spend the time alone in reflection, but on the other, I could see that for once, the whole family was united in the joy of getting dressed up for a special occasion, anticipating what would be inside the wrapping paper, and raising their glasses to each other; so I got showered, and dressed, and joined them.

They just couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to join in, especially as they had gone to so much trouble to buy and prepare everything; so rather than spoil their day – that they had been so looking forward to for months – I kept my mouth shut, sat down at the table and smiled. After all, they don’t want to hear about the world’s troubles on their special day. For all I know, they may think it’s just me who has troubles!

Why wouldn’t they? If everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t I? I realise now that that’s what we always do, isn’t it? We give in; we conform; because we don’t want to let other people down. We don’t want them to think that we think differently, we don’t want to come into conflict with others, even if it is on an important issue.

But this will be the last year I join in with the celebrations. This day is too important a day for us to just spend even more money, drink even more wine, and eat even more animals.

This is a time when we have to look at ourselves as a society, and see what misery and pain our thoughts, and actions, have inflicted on the rest of the world.

So maybe it will be just me next christmas day, alone with my thoughts, but that’s ok, I have plenty to reflect on. Don’t you?

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