A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas tidings

About time for an entry, eh? Dear Jean-Luc Picard commented recently that I haven't posted in a while. True. In fact this entry began before Christmas and has had to undergo some editing.

I've upgraded to Blogger in beta, purely so that I can have "labels". This means it will be possible to view wall-to-wall angst. Will have to add some new labels, but but the two I've put in so far on previous entries - angst and faith - do cover a lot. I'll also have to work out how to do one of those label index thingies.

I come back to my dear little blog with far too much to say, and I can't be bothered to bore you with all that "what I've been up too lately", so I thought I'd post seasonally.

In case you haven't noticed, it was Christmas recently.

I remember when I was younger - about 14, I think - my Girls' Brigade section put on an evening's entertainment for old people, and one sketch featured two old ladies (played by 14 year olds... how we got away with that I don't know...) cooing over the Navity and one comments "Of course, Christmas is for the children."

For the children? I thought. Does that mean I'll stop enjoying it when I get older?

There's certainly truth in that. I have been feeling much animosity towards Christmas recently. Part of the problem is living in York, which swarms with Christmas shoppers, and living on a road where people have put up the most horrible outside Christmas decorations.
At night, man, our yard's a trip
More lights than the Vegas strip
We're the only residential place seen from space...
Overdecorated, M. Spaff Sumison.
I like carol services, carol singers, brass bands, York's tree of many faiths (it's an endearingly kitsch attempt at promoting unity and multi-culturalism, by pointing out that all religions have stories featuring trees), giving and receiving cards, and getting together to eat very nice food. (Pigs in blankets, yum!) and as much as I might try and effect an air of superiority, I really love getting presents. Though it occurred to me just before Christmas that as well as putting off Christmas shopping, I put off updating my Amazon wishlist. Which makes me feel less selfish about my procrastination.

But still, I've been feeling very Scrooge-ish. In my favourite Christmas film (A Muppet Christmas Carol, of course) Fred exclaims, "Christmas is a loving, honest and charitable time."

Hmm.

I find it profoundly dishonest, for a start. It's not even a proper Pagan festival. Paganism I can at least respect. All the Pagans I've ever met (OK, Neo-Pagans) were kind, fluffy, spiritual people who can be annoyingly vague but do at least have a concept of what most would consider "Christian" values. I don't agree with many of their beliefs, and I consider some practices to be merely superstitious, but I respect Paganism, like I respect other religions. I respect anything that promotes kindness to others as an intrinsically good thing.

What I hate is secularism, consumerism, and most of all, greed. Apparently retailers have been complaining that people aren't spending enough. I find myself wondering what we're supposed to be doing about this. I get the chilly impression that the implication is that we should all rush down and enjoy the bargains to be had.

There is nothing honest about using a festival celebrating the birth of a Saviour, or even simply the imminence of Spring, to promote spending vast amounts of money on tat. And if people had any respect for the festival, it wouldn't begin in October and finish mid-January. It would not be endless months of the promotion of gluttony, greed and tackiness.

I also have a problem with the idea of a "season" of goodwill. What, honestly, is the point of a season of goodwill?

On Christmas day you can't get sore
Your fellow man you must adore
There's time to rob him all the more
The other three hundred and sixty four
-Tom Lehrer
I know! Let's be nice to the homeless so that they're extra surprised when we kick them next week! Let's send a cow to Ethiopia so that we can enjoy our factory-farmed turkey and our sweatshop-produced presents guiltfree!

Ahem. Now to redeem myself before I discover that I've been struck off all of your Christmas lists...

As Christmas got closer, I felt the odd twinge of excitement and couldn't work out why.

I guess that's part of the problem of getting older. I can't be content with feeling Christmassy. I hate all that tacky rubbish, so why did I suddenly find myself wanting to wander the streets of York, giving Christmas cheer to all that passed?

I still feel, intuitively, that there is good in Christmas. I don't just mean that there is good in Jesus - surely the whole point of Jesus coming was to transform our whole lives, and not just the month of December. Especially not with a festival that originally sprung from pagan origins and now is used for cynical commercialism.

I guess firstly it's just that we can be foolish creatures, and need to be reminded to spend time with our friends and family, and to remind our friends and family what we think of them. The idea that there is a time when, for dimly explained reasons, we are supposed to get together with our family, is quite a useful one. I don't think Jesus was mentioned once during our Christmas or Boxing day gatherings but we did get some quality time in, that involved playing Disney Trivial Pursuit and arguing about politics. My name is Helen and I will be your designated lefty for the evening.

Secondly, the food is amazing. Really.

Thirdly I discovered that people actually like home-made cards. Well, I enjoyed making them, anyway.

I watched A Muppet Christmas Carol (I do every year, Kermit is the best Bob Cratchit ever), and felt like I'd had my inner-Scrooge excised. I like Kermit's song on Christmas Eve:


There's magic in the air this evening
Magic in the air
The world is at her best, you know
When people love and care
The promise of excitement is one the night will keep
After all, there's only one more sleep 'til Christmas

The world has got a smile today
The world has got a glow
There's no such thing as strangers
When a stranger says hello
And everyone is family, we're having so much fun
After all there's only one more sleep 'til Christmas
I want to believe in that Christmas.
But not for just a few days of the year. Wouldn't it be good if we could always love each other, help the needy, welcome the stranger, celebrate and use our talents?

In the meantime, let's celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

That's right, Doctor Who is back on television.

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