About Us

Contact Us







Rekindling the Christmas Spirit
Jim Johnson

Christmas, as the TV adverts would have us believe, is a joy-filled time of goodwill to all men, a real family occasion, a time for giving thoughtful presents and indulging in all the delightful seasonal treats on offer. The reality can be very different, family can become people we hardly know. Presents aren’t always that carefully chosen or wanted. As for the seasonal delicacies, does anyone really like liqueur filled chocolates or dates? It’s no wonder that some people get fed up with Christmas when the big day itself has an excessively long build up. Once Guy Fawkes Day is out of the way, towns and cities hoist up their Christmas lights and the shops go into overdrive to entice us into spending our cash. What always annoys me is the office Christmas tape. A fellow member of staff will bring in a tape of festive tunes in early December, sentencing his or her colleagues to hours of ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ and other songs best forgotten. Think twice, however, before complaining that Christmas has lost its true meaning. Lament the over commercialised nightmare that it is becoming and you’ll suffer taunts of ‘Bah, Humbug!’ wherever you go.

Having said all that, I don’t actually hate Christmas at all - in fact for me it’s usually been pretty good. It’s just easy to let the negative aspects cloud our minds and become jaded with the whole idea. If you want to see just how much you’d miss Christmas if it didn’t happen, then try being ill.

Obviously this presents a problem; it’s impossible just to summon up a minor ailment. But I didn’t need to because I caught the flu. I first noticed something was wrong on the evening of the 23rd. It’s my birthday on Christmas Eve, which when I was younger seemed ideal. It meant that I got presents a day before everyone else. When you’re older though, and want to go out with friends to celebrate, then Christmas Eve must be one of the worst birthdays to have. It’s a day when people are heading off to see their families. The only option therefore is to celebrate beforehand, so this year I arranged it for the 23rd.

Within the first hour I was declining offers of birthday drinks. I felt totally exhausted, a bit nauseous and had a headache brewing. So I walked home early with my girlfriend Lynn. The next day it really kicked in. I have heard doctors suggest a way of distinguishing between colds and flu, in bid to stop us overcrowding their waiting rooms with cases of minor sniffles. They cite the five pound note on the pavement test as a way of self-diagnosis. That is, if you see a fiver lying in the street and can’t face crouching down to pick it up then you’ve got the flu. That morning I wouldn’t have stopped to pick up even a twenty-pound note.

To make matters worse, my girlfriend succumbed to the same nasty microbes just hours later. When she had left me lying in my sick bed she seemed totally fine. Lynn had gone to Tescos to get some last minute Christmas shopping. When she returned it was evident that the flu had taken hold. We wanted to wait until Christmas morning before deciding whether to cancel our plans or not. We were going to my Uncle’s farm in Suffolk for a few days, as had become tradition in my family ever since I was little. We were not feeling very optimistic about the chances of recovery but were reluctant to accept the likelihood of spending Christmas on the sofa with a box of tissues and some paracetamol. We didn’t need to wait for the morning to settle our plans, we both spent the night waking occasionally in a hot fever or rushing off to the toilet to be sick.

So Christmas for us was spent on the sofa in front of the TV. We watched children’s cartoons in the morning, the Queen’s speech later on, then drifted in and out of sleep all afternoon and evening. We received the occasional text message from family and friends, who were all having a great time. The comedy highlight of the day for us didn’t involve corny jokes in Christmas crackers, or the hysterics that ensue when trying to play Pictionary when drunk. It was when Lynn sneakily took a photo of me whilst I was sitting with a tissue stuffed up each nostril. For my part it was a purely functional attempt at removing the need to continually blow my nose, as it was getting very sore. But even before I’d seen the photo I realised that I must have looked quite comical.

Christmas Day came and went but the flu lingered on. I now understand the importance of immunisation programmes for the vulnerable. I have already mentioned the snot, headaches and nausea but that’s not all it brings. Every limb aches so those simple tasks become feats of endurance. Your body’s thermostat breaks down so that you have to alternate between semi-nakedness and full Eskimo attire.

The day after Boxing Day things began to improve and we somehow mustered the energy to get out of the house. We hobbled down the street like an old couple propping each other up. We hadn’t eaten anything but soup for days and we felt in need of something more substantial. All we could find open was McDonalds. We sat eating our cheeseburgers in sulky silence, wishing Christmas had turned out how we had planned, and also feeling slightly unsure about whether our stomachs were ready to accept solid food. On the way home we looked forward to a nice warming drink, not mulled wine of course, but a festive mug of Lemsip.

Never again will I side with the cynics who regard Christmas as a time for crap TV, unwanted presents and having to tolerate obnoxious relatives. It may well involve those things to some extent but I don’t care. That’s half the fun.

< Back to Index
< About the Author
< Reply to this Article