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A Renaissance For Christmas
Oliver Moor

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. We’re going to do something that’s 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 people’s 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 people’s home and sing!” The next Christmas they’d 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 o’clock 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 morning’s 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 (I’d 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 church’s midnight service. The reason? I’m bored with the hangover.

This, I’m sure, is basically my reverting to type. My parent’s 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 one’s 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 don’t 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 to go.

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

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