The Christmas Post

There is a theory among sociologists that the point of festivals was to use up surplus resources, so they couldn't fall into the hands of a few people. Festivals were a way to prevent the rich getting too rich.

The excuse for the festival was trivial. It could be the official birthday of a monarch, the day assigned to a local saint, the first day of winter, the last day of summer, or whatever. Just so long as festivals were regular and fairly evenly spaced, they served their purpose.

On the one hand, this means christmas, easter, thanksgiving and shrove tuesday really are about exactly what people complain they've become - an occasion for conspicuous consumption, with the vague pretense of marking the anniversary of some mythical event. Or even a real event, in the case of thanksgiving.

On the other hand, there's so much available now - so much chocolate, wine, cake, meat etc. - that's it's not possible to use it all up. Productivity is so absurdly high, and the market so dependent on ever increasing consumption, that overconsumption is the norm, and festivals are used to promote even greater consumption than that.

And, there's more and more festivals - hanukkah, saints days, mother's day, father's day, president's days, and more. Oh, and instead of preventing the rich getting too rich, it fills their coffers even more, because they're the ones selling it to us.

Be honest. Did you ever actually believe in Father Christmas? Even when you were five years old and getting presents was an exciting experience?

I'm pretty sure I never did. Being raised the vaguest kind of protestant and being smarter than most of the other kids probably helped. I was afraid of the dark, I knew that respectable people voted "conservative", and I was puzzled that adults got embarrassed when children used the word "erection" to describe buildings, but I never believed in a jolly bearded fat man in a red suit.

One of my few childhood memories is of christmas 1976, when I was four years old. I was lying awake in bed, listening to the creaking floorboards and rustling sacks (pillow cases) as my father tried to make no noise as he crept into the bedroom of me and my brother. As soon as he'd gone I tried (and failed) to noiselessly unwrap the contents to see what santa claus had brought.

In spite of all this cynicism, christmas day still feels special. Or rather, it feels as though it ought to be special. The shops, TV, radio, computer games and publishing industries are all trying so hard to make it feel special. And there's a lot of people out there who seem to genuinely feel that there's something remarkable and joyous about all the gaudy glitz and seasonal music.

So, though I may be a bitter and cynical old queen, and I feel a little bit sick from too many mince pies and chocolate bars, I'll still wish you a slightly jaded Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho.

Just don't mention Jesus getting born. That spoils it.


  1. However and whatever you may feel about Christmas, Captain, I guess I was always hoping for a Christmas post from you. I was somehow right. Here it is! Thank you so very much!

    «Have yourself a merry little Christmas now!» Rosemary Clooney

    From Lisbon, Feliz Natal!


  2. aaaw, nice surprise ending there. I'll skip xmas and go right to wishing you a Happy New Year.