Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Holidays are Comin', Holidays are Comin' or How Adverts Signify the Passage of Time to Me

I like Christmas time. It makes me happy. I like the plastic trees and the tiny santa outfits for dogs. I like the tinsel and the £2 fire hazard fairy lights. I especially like being able to buy and eat Christmas pudding, get this, - even when it's not Christmas. It's just my natural love for tack and alcohol seeping through into everyday life; just as some people get excited every time the Sun Lolly advert comes on for the first time of the year ("It's Summer! IT'S FINALLY SUMMER!" yells my mum frantically, waving her arms and momentarily forgetting her hatred for dinosaur fossils), I find it distinctly heartwarming whenever an Argos ad features sleighbells in its musical score, or WHSmiths chooses a Ruby Wax voiceover and some snowflake decorations. We are told, as well-informed cynical adults, that Christmas is an over-hyped sad excuse for a Clinton's moment, and that we shouldn't like it that much. When Christmas is mentioned outside of late November, we get angry and flustered. Well I don't. I fucking love it.

I'm not sure where my unconditional love for this national holiday comes from. Perhaps it stems from the wholesome way my first primary school (the good one) treated Christmas with a nice home-made cards and real-life plants-for-decoration respectful approach. It was a Christian school, after all. We did a helluva nativity. Or maybe it's because I love buying people presents, and it's only one date to remember. I am probably the world's worst friend when it comes to remembering birthdays. Every year I make a vow to write down every birthday I know and learn them. It never happens. I have forgotten my best friend's birthday every year since I met him. It doesn't mean I don't love him, it just means I'm a bit of a shit. Christmas means that I can give everyone brilliant presents and tell them they're all awesome, and I only have to remember one date, which I remember anyway. The 25th of December is as easy to remember as how to spell you're own name. If you were ever a kid - as I'm sure most of you were, whether you admit it or not - the number 25 still seems to have some kind of magical ring to it. Funny how the promise of new stuff can do that to an otherwise normal day.

So, to a regular person, October the 20th seems far too early to be talking about chestnuts, turkey and mulled wine. I can hear the groans from here. "Jesus isn't real!" you moan, rolling your eyes and flipping open some Dawkins. "Can't this wait until at least December?" Fair enough. I respect your wilful cynicism. I even envy it. I'd be far cooler if I didn't like Christmas, and don't I know it. It's just that once I hear the well-trodden notes of a 30 year old festive hit, I know my game's up. I can't pretend to be a grumpy Noël-hater anymore. And why should I, when winter is such a bitch to me? With all the cold, wet, air-conditioning-induced chapped hand-filled days, the seasonal affective disorder (it's a real disorder, okay?), the death of all my plants, and the genuine and all-consuming need for 3 tonnes of carbohydrates every day; it's nice to have a sparkling 99p shop bauble dangling majestically on the horizon. For some, it's a time to bond through humbuggery. For me, it's a time to drape everything in glitter and sing loudly to Mariah Carey. Be honest - that's the best Christmas song ever made.

Not being religious struck me as a problem, for a little while at least. How could I celebrate a religious festival when I had no strong beliefs of my own? (Apart from my beliefs that involve definitely not believing in deities or conspiracy theories or angels or babies who save the world.) Hypocricy isn't usually my cup of egg nog, and so I toyed with the idea of getting back into my Catholic roots. I even went to midnight mass for a few years. I felt like it was only fair that if I was going to celebrate Christmas, that I take the time to at least listen to the messages people like to hear in the Bible. I might not believe that it was dictated to an old man on a mountain by an old man in the sky, but I'm not silly enough to deny that most of the basic principles of Christianity are good ones. Obviously the more prejudical and violent passages can be ignored or used for comedic purposes, but the other things, the nice ideas of love and equality, I'm pretty sure we can all agree with those. Even fundamentalists would find it hard to disagree with those. I recently stopped going to church at Christmas, however. It's not that I grew out of caring for my fellow man - as many of my friends will tell you, I have always hated people - I just felt that going to church simply because I felt I should was far worse than celebrating a Godless Christmas. I accepted that rather than the agnostic I'd promised my Nan that I was, I was actually an atheist. It felt even more hypocritical to sit and pretend to real Christians that I might believe in the actual Nativity, than it did to sit at home eating a Terry's chocolate orange, piggybacking on an ancient tradition because it smelled nice and I liked the TV schedule. As my mum's told me all my life - Christmas only exists in winter because there used to be a Pagan festival tehn anyway, to keep people's spirits up during the dark months of rain and stale grains. There's probably no need to feel so guilty. That'll be the Catholicism again.

It might be wrong of me, but I've claimed Christmas, despite my non-believer ways. If there's a time of year that allows me to send cards to people it's become to awkward to just randomly text, or that lets me eat chocolate log for breakfast, then I'm all for it. It brought me the silver-painted pine cone and the reindeer-patterned jumper. It gave me my first taste of alcohol (Asti Spumante) and a penchant for brandy butter. I don't just love Christmas, I love the whole idea of a cosy glowing island in the midst of winter. I wish it went on for longer. A whole week of Christmas would be brilliant. A month would be even better. Sod you all. I know you'll all be secretly happy when you see that Coca Cola lorry convoy rolling past your Corrie advert break. Holidays are Comin', Holidays are Comin'...


coffeebucks said...

I love Christmas because everyone's happy. Obviously some people aren't & it's good to remember that - or it may just be the alcohol talking, causing a fake happiness - but people are nicer, friendlier & more cheerful. October's too soon for that to kick in, it's usually late November, but soon I'll start getting my own Christmas feeling & it's because of that.

I like to think it's out of altruism - people like buying gifts & seeing family & old friends. I think.

nok32uk said...

Mid to end of November is early enough for Christmas to me. The annual appearance of Cliff Richard, £1 shops with flashing tat in the window, tramps with tinsel round their head, people moaning about the fact it hasn't snowed yet,and when it does they still moan. Christmas music videos on the telly, not-so-secret santas at work, and of course.. NODDY HOLDER.. (and the one over the top Christmas tree in Wetherspoons with dirty empty ale (always ale) glasses deposited round it). There's some typical British eccentricity about it all.

I have no idea what i've just waffled on about but I mentioned Noddy Holder so..

Katie said...

Yes, it might well be fake happiness due to alcohol, but that's mainly how my jolliness around people manages to happen, so I don't mind :D

When would the ideal time be for christmas preparations to start? If there was a law about when shops could put christmas decor up?

coffeebucks said...

Six weeks before Christmas Day. Or if that freaks you out, December 1st. Long enough to enjoy it, but late enough to remember that 'autumn' is in fact a legitimate season.

This year more than ever it seems that supermarkets are snowballing Halloween, Fireworks night & Christmas together with 80% off picnic cutlery and disposable barbecues.

Katie said...

Another reason Christmas is amazing - Baileys Irish Cream.

Another reason - Champagne Truffles

1. 4.
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