I am one of seven children that my mother raised singlehandedly without much money but with a lot of love, care and skill at knitting, sewing and, especially, cooking and baking. She was a genius in the kitchen. I am going back to the 1950s/1960s here and for a lot of people, times were tough but I cannot recall a single birthday or Christmas or Sunday dinner for that matter that was disappointing. Our expectations for presents were simpler in those gadget-free years. At Christmas, we were content with what was called the ‘big present’ – perhaps a torch, a cowboy outfit, and once or twice a bike – supplemented with selection boxes, annuals and other bits and pieces. It was an exciting time of the year, a joy, happy days. It was Christmas, a word that has become entangled in that quagmire of political correctness because it might offend someone. I can think of many other words in the sweary department that would be miles more offensive that the word Christmas. But we live in an era where some people treat certain words and phrases like farts in a spacesuit and protest at anything and anyone that utters even the mildest of comments or jokes, or refers to something that is alien to closed minds.
Some councils across the UK have dropped the Christmas word in favour of ‘season’s greetings’ or they’ve invented new words like ‘Winterval” for fear of cross-community apoplexy. Some schools have abandoned the annual Nativity play because it is seen as a blatant insult to people who don’t happen to be Christians. It’s a story, people, a chance for kids to dress up, to play act and have a bit of fun. It is a kind of pantomime with no hidden agenda to recruit non-Christians into a weird new cult. And don’t get me started on ‘Xmas’!
Where I lived in Belfast all those years ago, we would get very excited as the day approached when the local church installed the crib. I wrote a little poem to encapsulate the memory:
It was the highlight of the year,
apart from toys on Christmas day,
to see the outdoor crib
where the baby Jesus lay.
Memory and maturity spoil
the wonder of it all
for the star was a bulb
and Jesus was a doll.
Now, I have every right to complain about that terrible depiction; a tiny bulb for a star and, cough, splutter, a doll for the baby Jesus. But I couldn’t have cared less. It was an absolute delight when I was five or six. I stared at it in awe. The light was yellow and warm and the baby had a lovely little smooth face. Even as a grizzled adult, the memory of the scene makes me smile. Offensive? Nah. Anyone offended by Nativity cribs can go and chase their Grannies round corn fields. (Ageist, disrespectful to Grandmas and the agricultural environment…….!!)
I would agree with many that the real negative about Christmas is the commercial aspect and the gooey television advertisements that go on and on and on from October to December. Everything has a downside, so deal with the busy streets and shops and all the ballyhoo but, at the same time, embrace the fun and joy of Christmas and never let go of the good memories or the notion of peace and goodwill to all. If you find offense in Christmas, tough turkey, say I. The moaning Minnies and Scrooges will be bleating away as usual and someone will be swinging a wrecking ball at the tradition, and the politically correct do-gooders will huff and puff. My take on all of them, go ahead. Get it out of your system but my overall message is – hands off Christmas as a traditional festival, hands off Christmas as a word and hands off my enjoyment of Christmas. I feel another little poem coming on:
The boasts and baloney,
The humbug and grumbles,
The hot air and bunkum,
The belly-aches and mumbles.
We can all agree to disagree,
Christmas not everyone’s cup of tea.
Whatever you think, whatever you say,
Have your happiest *Whatever Day.
*And by that I mean CHRISTMAS!