Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.
`Come in.’ exclaimed the Ghost. `Come in, and know me better, man.’ `I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. `Look upon me.’
Tomorrow the Earth in the Northern hemisphere reaches its darkest and coldest point before beginning its six month journey back to maximum light. This thought has prompted a few reflections on Christmas in 2017 to balance the nostalgia of the previous post.
God rest you merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay.
From at least the middle of October, every pub , restaurant and hotel seem to begin competing for the office party market. “Book now to avoid disappointment.” “Only a few tables left!” “Don’t be left out” which culminated in Mad Friday, the night with the greatest number of drunken revellers on our streets, including not inconsiderable numbers of those familiar Christmas drinkers who can’t make their minds up at the bar or insist on paying for their own drinks in a nine strong round.
But surely the least attractive option, promising all the gaeity of a 40 watt light bulb, would be the Christmas party of any political party but perhaps this one in particular…
Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.
Bring me pine logs hither
Now there seems to be more Christmas markets in the UK than in the whole of the rest of Europe. Post Brexit, what will happen to Jurgen & Hans’ faux German sheds with carol singing reindeer, overpriced gluhwein and bratwurst, those stalls selling stale Stollen and dodgy tulip bulbs together with all the bath bombs, hand made soaps and debatable charcuterie you could never need? Not to mention the opportunity to be stampeded by a hen party of hefty lasses from Wigan high on a dangerous cocktail of cheap Wetherspoon’s Prosecco and snide Gucci perfume.
Once the preserve of department stores and local town halls, private houses now compete for the most outrageous displays of external festive lights. Though it has to be said that this saves us the trouble and expense of visiting some naff “Magical Christmas Event” run by some random gypos on a Yorkshire farm who have tied fake antlers to their trotting ponies heads.
Santa cutie, there’s one thing I really do need, the deed to a Bitcoin mine
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight,
with apologies to Eartha Kitt
Christmas music has been around as long as I can remember, Nat King Cole, Sinatra and Bing Crosby, Band aid and all those Christmas Number Ones now so ubiquitous that far from stimulating goodwill to all men, make a New Year court appearance a distinct possibility for those of us stretched beyond breaking point by Maria Carey, Slade or Wham.
O tidings of comfort and joy
The print media world of magazines and newspapers goes into a predictable orbit at this time of the year. Those lists of What to buy for him, her, the children, even your bloody pets in the quality paper supplements. I spent a Sunday looking at them objectively and, honestly, they are all just death itself , not “to die for” as they would have it. Set fire to your money or give it to charity rather than buy me anything from these depressing catalogues of pointless consumerism!
As ever, and undoubtedly rehashed from previous years, there are the constant articles about how to have the perfect Christmas lunch: brine your turkey the night before, put semolina on your roast potatoes, cook the legs separately, bone the legs out and stuff them with a forcemeat stuffing made from quinoa, zest of yuzu and spiralised kale. Who knows how to bone out a leg of oversized poultry these days other than some cheffy bastard with his £90 tasting menu and a substantial retainer from the newspaper publishing this guff?
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The hopes and fears of all the years
The Apprentice, Professional Masterchef, The X-Factor, I’m a Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing may all seem banal and trivial in different degrees but as they reach their predictable final climaxes in December , I have to grudgingly admit they do help to unify people with a shared experience. Over 13 million watched the Strictly final which is against the trend of so many diverse, sorry it’s that word again, I meant disparate, cultural experiences.
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar
More than ever in these days of non-nuclear families, hundreds of thousands of these tiny diasporas are driven to relocate by a mixture of searching for home, duty visits, senses of obligation and the need to ground themselves. Although perhaps feeling that it would be nice to just have a few precious days together. I don’t envy those stuck in cars on motorways or trying to travel on the railway using timetables almost malevolently designed to subject the unwashed to maximum inconvenience.
Now bring us some figgy pudding,
And a cup of good cheer
There has been a steady growth of eating out on Christmas day from gastropubs, where the cost of a meal for 6 or 8 would buy a terraced house in the Sixties, to the despair of eating a curry in a local Indian on Christmas day. I have heard of people spending amounts on table settings for a dinner at home on the big day that would have also bought that terraced house.
Now there are foods from across the globe and the seasons no longer seem to exist. Despite the fact that there are shops open nowadays even on Christmas day, people lay in enough meat and drink to survive for a month, just in case friends or relatives turn up on the off chance. Across Britain, the majority of those friends and relatives remain closeted at home sleeping off 6500 calories in front of the telly whilst the mountain of party food goes untouched.
Join the triumph of the skies
How many now escape this midwinter madness and inevitable family squabbles by taking a holiday often in warmer places? Toasting the Yuletide in swimwear by a turquoise sea in 30 degrees of heat with Singha or Red Stripe beer , a Yarra Valley sauvignon blanc or a strawberry daiquiri. The one time we did this confirms that there is something odd about sitting on a tropical beach wearing a Santa hat. Christmas decorations in Thailand which is Buddhist and Hindu just seem wrong.
Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning
More than ever the effects of technology, especially social media, invade our lives, separating everyone into different worlds, the kids upstairs whatsapping, snapchatting and instagramming or watching some esoteric, increasingly ephemeral aspect of popular culture on a tiny screen, adults in different rooms watching soaps, football on Sky multiroom or quietly putting unrequited gifts on Ebay. Why can’t people just leave those horrible antisocial devices alone for a day?
Many Christmas traditions are dying: Christmas stockings, watching the Queens speech , the demise of some traditions hastened by this digital “progress”. What would you prefer? A dancing Santa gif at the end of an email, a robin emoji tacked on the end of a vacuous text message or a real handwritten Christmas card, chosen with care and you personally in mind by the sender?
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
Who now remembers Advent ? It is the Christian period leading up to Christmas with candles lit on each of the four preceding Sundays until on Christmas day the final one is lit signifying Christ’s birth bringing light to the world.
There are so many issues facing us, so much political posturing that it is so tempting to retreat into hibernation, sustained by mince pies and single malt whisky. But there are many small things that can be done to make the world a better place: don’t be too judgemental , recognise that we are, on the whole, better off than before, give a little more to charity and try to be kind in some way each and every day.
Merry Christmas Everyone!