December 26th 1973
produced something of a shock for me, my sister and brother. Christmas
Day had been typical. The three of us had leapt from our beds and ripped
open our presents before our parents were awake. Lunch had taken five
hours to prepare but had been devoured in ten minutes. We then sat either
staring at the TV, breaking off only to fight, cry, whine or vomit until
it was time for bed.
The next morning the shock greeted us. My parents had decided that Things
Had Got To Change. Never again, declared my mother, will
it be like that. Were going to do something thats at least
vaguely in the spirit of Christmas.
They were as good as their word. For the next eighteen years Christmas
Day took on a completely different character; a character which ultimately
made it far more enjoyable. In truth it was simply the old trick of
giving the day a structure, which usually seems to do the job with children,
but by God it worked. The Plan for C-Day basically involved producing
a carol concert at a local old peoples home on Christmas morning.
Never mind that the inmates were either too deaf, too befuddled, or
perhaps too drugged-up to know much of what was going on: we nevertheless
dutifully rolled up year after year. The structure itself never changed
much either: Blow The Trumpet And Bang The Drum the opening
number; There were shepherds abiding in the fields invariably
one of the readings, until it was replaced eventually with the rather
sombre Journey Of The Magi much later; a rousing We
Wish You A Merry Christmas the Grand Finale. Presents (generally
hankies) were then handed out to the oldies who made up our audience,
along with an instruction to converse with them an unnerving
prospect for me, at first, but one which got easier when I realised
that they were sometime more switched on, and even appreciative than
it had initially appeared.
Unsurprisingly, most of my friends at junior school had spent similar
Christmas mornings to our 1973 debacle, and when their parents got wind
of what we did at Christmas they would jump at the idea. (This would
often happen after the friend in question, having gleefully sneered
at the monstrous uncoolness of it all, had gone home and announced in
mocking tones You know what Oliver had to do on Christmas day?
He had to go to an old peoples home and sing! The next Christmas
theyd invariably have to show up themselves, much to my delight.)
Eventually we ended up with six or seven families involved, and an ensemble
which comfortably outnumbered its audience. The gathering itself took
a couple of hours, so we were back home by one oclock and ready
to stuff ourselves. Presents generally waited until after the food,
which meant that not only were we sated with a large meal, but our nervous
energy had been burned off by the mornings exertions. Everybody
parents, kids, old people -- felt happy.
Eventually the home closed perhaps just as well, as the cute
little six- and seven- year olds had become strapping twentysomethings,
and the parents were approaching that age where they ought to have considered
joining the audience and this led to an upheaval. For me, Christmas
morning became, for a while, a time of fighting a monster hangover for
a few hours, and on one occasion fighting an unpleasant rash which had
formed on my arms (Id mistakenly wrapped myself in a Vim-encrusted
rag with which my mother cleans the bath, mistaking it for a duvet,
and had spent the night sleeping on the bathroom floor wondering why
my mattress had become so firm.)
However, for the past couple of years I have noticed a further change
in my attitude to Christmas. I have not, particularly, been struck with
any sort of moral imperative that I know of, neither am I religious;
but for the previous two Christmases I have steered clear of the pub
and have spent Christmas Eve playing the organ for a local churchs
midnight service. The reason? Im bored with the hangover.
This, Im sure, is basically my reverting to type. My parents
decision to return to the spirit of Christmas was brought
about by the same reason: namely, that of frustration and revulsion
of the current circumstance, rather than for any particular altruistic
inclination (although they are, by nature, altruistic.) My own frustration
boredom is better, though at my own lack of discipline
has led me to what is apparently closer to the Christmas spirit than
any particular feeling of doing good. Indeed, I would go
as far as to say that the do-gooder motivation is less healthy than
the boredom induced motivation: the former really leads to a feeling
of smugness and serves merely to allow one to feel very pleased with
oneself. The latter lets one shake off ones own complacency: altruism
emerges as a result.
People are always complaining about Christmas -- for two reasons. The
first is that the spirit of it has been lost. The second
is that it comes earlier every year. The second is perfectly
true: the whiff of gold, frankincense and myrrh (or gold, at least)
is in the air by sundown on the August Bank Holiday. The first
I dont know. Perhaps it has. But there is a way to retrieve it.
The answer lies in the title of a Roy Wood song: I Wish It Could
Be Christmas Every Day. This is the undoubtedly the right way
Let us make every day Christmas. Let people become sick of the very
idea of shovelling food down their gullets. Let them become utterly
encumbered by the vast amount of unwanted and unloved junk they accumulate.
Let the whole thing collapse under its own gravity. Let ennui ensue:
and from it, perhaps, let the true spirit of Christmas re-emerge.
Let the boredom commence.
© Oliver Moor 2001