Sunday, 10 January 2010

So this is Christmas

And what have I done? Well. Not much. Two thousand and nine ranks as a relatively uneventful year and, in my book, that is a blessing that cannot be appreciated enough. There were no huge dramas, no surges of stress. I kept my health intact and so did the people I love. I forged even tighter links with friends and family. Work staggered on: but never soul-destroyingly. I had a lot of fun and spent a lot of the days following Christmas putting together a photo album of the year’s ‘best ofs’. It was hard to edit it all down to even three hundred. Now I have a photo album that heaves with the weight of three hundred smiles, meaningful glances, sunsets, tides, cats and wine-clinked gazes. It may be a lot of paper, but it somehow draws me much closer to all those special memories than a digital image could.

I adore Christmas. Sometimes it is a little like being stubbornly in love with someone after he has hit you, abused you, cheated you and left you for dust. You can’t even rationalise it anymore (with the stressful shopping trips and Boxing Day rows) but all you know is that, somehow, for some reason, the love is still there. It’s one of those loves that burns deep when you are little, fades out for a few years, and then flickers back into being as you get a bit older.

I’m trying to resist the return to morbidness, but evidently failing. You see, one of the reasons I think people love Christmas is because it returns you to youth. Not only that but it makes you re-remember your parents when they were young too. When you heard them franticaly wrapping presents in the downstairs living room while you were meant to be asleep. When you were left there, thinking: what are they doing when there’s a Father Christmas? When your mum, her eyes extra wide, a smile fixed on her face, said that Father Christmas brought all the presents to the house, but of course he didn’t have time to wrap them all up, so of course mum had to chip in and wrap a few too!

Christmas is crystallised memory, a beautiful fossil. It strips away age and dissolves people into their purest form. Whether your ‘treat’ moves on from a Scaletrix set to a glass of vintage port or some Jo Malone candles, the expression on your face stays the same. The uncurling smile, a burst of being in the eyes. You wanted something and you were given it. What can be more primal than that?

Yes, I suppose that there are (justifiable) concerns about consumerism, but the Christmas can be as uncommercialised as you want it to be. You can see that expression in people whether it’s something big or whether it’s something small, like the pull of a cracker. It’s about forgetting the chores, the daily grinds, the panics, and dabbling in fun and insensible glee. It’s national permission to indulge. It’s our form of hibernation. A burrowing away with, hopefully, the people that make us smile – whoever they may be – and, for one day, becoming children together.  Seeing us beyond the shackles of age and duty.

Whether you are atheist, theist, or agnostic like me, Christmas has its purpose. Personally, I think the facts are incontestable: Christmas is Pagan in origin. To declare that does not deny the existence of Jesus Christ – if that’s what you believe – but instead understands that the event was a ‘moveable feast’ that the Christians pinned on to a pre-existing Pagan festival.

Oh, and we need it. Whatever you celebrate. These nights are dark and the days are short. Ice expands on asphalt. We buckle down and we soldier on, trying to remember the spring.

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