Once the grotesque carved pumpkins rot into the ground and the last bonfires are extinguished in a blizzard of rain, darkness and misery, Britain goes slightly mad. People heat wine with spices and clementines. They dress up in horrendously ugly jumpers and go to festivals in parks at night. They ask for gingerbread or eggnog syrups in their skinny lattes. I’ve seen perfectly normal people to buy a fake plastic tree and drag it home on the Tube. That said, all credit to them for making sure it was stood up and kept to the right on escalators. But none of this is mad at all: we accept it, even embrace it. It’s Christmas, and this is how we celebrate.
Christmas stopped exclusively being the day when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus long before any of us were born. However, that doesn’t stop cynics and whiners having rants about the crass, rampant corporatism that’s savaged the heart of a once-honourable family celebration. Well sorry, but no. Now most of us are at the point halfway between childlike belief in the magic of Christmas and adult Christmases of planning, deception, office parties and manic kids, Christmas still manages to feel special. Why? It’s not just the holiday: we get time off at Easter as well. Screw the Scrooges: modern Christmas is awesome.
The first signs that Christmas is on the way are the TV ads. It’s the one time of the year that we actively look forward to seeing adverts break up our favourite shows and hold off before hitting skip on YouTube. They’re all masterpieces, more short films than 30-second spots, and remind everyone what excellent advertising is actually like. Between the constant payday lending deals and promotions for winter sun breaks to politically dubious countries, we’re made to feel warm and cosy through our screens. The John Lewis ad has become a virtual Christmas tradition within five years: we know it’ll feature a moody beginning set to a cover of a once-famous song, then a cute kid does something as it snows outside before the whole thing reaches some meaningful deeper conclusion about the true meaning of Christmas. This year’s effort from Sainsbury’s even managed to reach the headlines.
Before you argue Christmas music is corporate, at least it’s old school corporate. Finally, everyone gets to sing to Mariah’s ‘All I Want For Christmas’ instead of hearing Ariana, Iggy, Miley and Taylor all the time. It’s the same story with Band Aid – if anyone claims to hate it, just wait until they go all Bono when they think nobody’s watching. Even though this year’s Ebola fundraiser was criticised for being insensitive and shallow, it’s been the fastest-selling single of the year. Similarly, The Military Wives made it on the back of a Christmas number one in 2011, we remembered Hillsborough in 2012 when The Justice Collective did the same and, gloriously, everyone felt the Christmas spirit and banded together in 2009 to deny Joe McElderry the top spot in favour of Rage Against The Machine.
‘Christmas is a time for giving.’ ‘Christmas is a time for spending with family.’ ‘Christmas is a time to celebrate what’s important.’ Christmas is all, or none, of these. Christmas is a long time, from after Bonfire Night until the point after New Year when everything goes back to normal and we all feel a bit depressed. It’s not because we’ve spent, eaten, laughed, sang, drunk, played, relaxed or been at home too much though: it’s because we can’t do those things anymore.