I hate Christmas. I think. The fact is that other people’s decorations are going up, the Cadbury chocolate tree decorations have probably already sold out and all that’s left are edible Hello Kitties (footnote: Cadbury’s never make enough, even though they must know that anyone who buys them in November can’t possibly leave them alone), and yet I’m not feeling in the least festive. And I should feel festive because I’m time travelling in the Maltesers advent calendar. (footnote: Maltesers were, incidentally, the gift brought by the fourth, and lesser known, wise man)
I think my hatred started the year Heston Blumenthal embedded an entire orange into a Christmas pudding and Waitrose collapsed under the weight of jaded shoppers desperate, like bloated Roman emperors lounging on couches, for a new food sensation to pique our cynical taste buds. In the olden days we regarded a tin of Quality Street with the same awe reserved for moon landings and hand-held calculators but these days we have special everyday. When I was a child my mother began squirrelling treats away as soon as the clocks changed and the cupboards would begin filling with food we weren’t allowed to eat : tinned ham, a box of Family Circle biscuits, a Birds trifle, sterilised milk, walnuts, tinned tiny frankfurters, and a new bottle of salad cream. But now we can buy sushi and chipotle sauce at the petrol station we have simply become bored. This year Iceland has buried an entire Kings College choir boy inside a sausage roll the size of a Fiat 500 and yet we can hardly be bothered.
Or it may have started the year John Lewis decided that instead of advertising the distasteful fact that they sell stuff, they would instead lead the field in awww! No one watches the TV ads anymore. Most of us have the facility to fast forward through anything unpalatable (such as Bruce Forsyth) so canny advertising agencies must create promotional material that we all want to share on Facebook and nothing succeeds as well as an item that has the awww! factor. Here’s a cover of an old song but sung by a nice girl – Aww! Here’s a bear! Awww. And a rabbit! Awwwwww!
In the olden days we gave presents – today we give gifts. Others try, but no one succeeds quite like Boots. One in every three baskets in Boots contains a discarded shopping list detailing gifts for friends and family members grouped into threes to capitalise on the “get three, pay for two, steal one” promotion. (Footnote: when we receive a Sanctuary Bathing Experience With Organic Turban in a box we try to look pleased but we can’t help wondering if this is the one they didn’t actually pay for). I think I’ve got tired of gifts. And I’m sorry Mum, but I’m ok for onesies. And fragrance diffusers. (Footnote: fragrance diffusers are 5 sticks in a vase of disinfectant).
It might of course be because this is the time of year we start getting the cards. Now I have to confess I stopped sending cards several years ago and to be fair, most of my friends and family have kindly noted and have stopped sending them to me but I still get the odd one with a nice newsy letter in. In the olden days these letters contained all kinds of interesting information about difficult choices between offers from Cambridge and Oxford to study Egyptology, and success in Grade 8 flute at pre-school but these days they are much more likely to be about plucky battles with chemo and Peruvian charity bike rides. Although the news is different, the impact is the same. So instead of having Sylvia Pilkington’s daughter Angela’s marriage to a Nobel peace prize winning scientist flung at me by my mother, now I feel slightly ashamed that I have further disappointed her by not giving her a granddaughter with anorexia and a grandson who took gold in the Paralympics in synchronised Jenga.
I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. I imagine that when the Christmas Radio Times comes out I’ll be feeling the warmth. This year though – post Operation Yewtree – schedulers will be struggling with their repeats and fearful that over the next couple of weeks a few more national treasures will have fallen. I predict an awful lot of – in all senses – Miranda Hart.
I think what might help is a change to having Christmas only every other year. As far as I can tell the only people who will be disadvantaged by my proposal will be children. I don’t feel bad about this. It’s only this generation after all of children who will suffer, and they’ll grow up, and anyway, they’ve just had a very successful BBC charity event. I’m not sure how well it will go with Christians. But frankly, if they can tolerate One Direction advent calendars, I think they can cope with this.