Some thoughts on the Christmas Festivities

Two things have come together to contribute to these ramblings about Christmas. The first is an article in this month’s BBC History Magazine which tells me that Christmas was abolished by Christians in England in the 1640s. In a speech on Christmas Day in Watford (Mayor Thornhill take note!), these words were, apparently spoken, 

“I give you to understand that the very name of Christmas is idolatrous and profane, and so, verily, are the 12 days wherein the wicked make daily…. sacrifices to riot and sensuality”.

Let’s park that for a minute and turn to my second source of thoughts. The TODAY programme! There I learned this morning that a very high proportion of cancers would still be avoided if people didn’t smoke, drink and eat too much.

These thoughts come together because at Christmas there is much eating, drinking (and in some places smoking. According to our television screens we cannot have Christmas unless we stuff the Turkey and then ourselves. Well know cooks (well Erica has heard of them) vie to tell you of their magnificent creations. Beware however the one that has pine scented sugar on the mince pies. Apparently it tastes OK but the box smells like toilet cleaner.

Now you might say that these matters have nothing to do with me. Well some of the consequences of over drinking and over eating do have to be picked up by any of us with a social conscience or an elected position.

We have to persuade taxpayers to cough up large amounts of money for:

  • The health services with women in their mid 30s now dying from liver and kidney problems that would normally be found in 60 year old men because of binge drinking,. We pay to keep people in hospital after they have picked up a range of illnesses because of obesity. We pay to keep A and E units fully staffed to deal with a range of self inflicted and externally inflicted ills on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Police who we pay to keep large numbers of police in the streets until all hours as our front line in often pitched battles with drunken yobs.
  • Our cleaning staff to go into those streets to clear up the litter, urine and vomit which infects them before most other people turn in to do a day’s work.

Above all it’s tragic that we are bringing up a generation of children who are likely to have life spans shorter than ours and we do nothing about it.

So what can be done? Abolish Christmas? No I love Christmas at least from about 20th to 26th December. Like all homes we have our traditions. Erica and I always keep some of our 6,000 Christmas Cards back to deliver on Christmas Eve. (Beware two nutters with reindeer antlers who will be seen in the Allerton Road area on 24th December). Our holiday is made special by the arrival of our Grand daughter and we might just spoil her a little. But why oh why does it drift on for days afterwards and months before? We must have a serious debate about consumerism and how Christmas distorts spending for many and impoverishes a small number of people for most of the year.

We must deal with alcohol and there are two ways. Firstly make the polluter pay. Push up the price of alcohol to make it more difficult to purchase large quantities. This applies to all vendors of alcohol. Much of the orgy of violence on our streets is fuelled by people who get tanked up on cheap supermarket booze before going out to get topped up in the club. Then use the money to pay for the policing and the clean ups.

Second take much more care of advertising which is still too common and still to redolent of glamour and hardness ( Famous Grouse adverts can be excluded from this – they are always marvelous.

We must deal with tobacco in the way thatAustraliadoes. There a law has been introduced which makes all packs plain and, again, takes the glamour out of the practice.

In schools and colleges there must be full engagement with young people about obesity, smoking and drinking. No-one wants to die in their mid 30s but when you’re 15 you think you are going to live forever.

So it may appear to some of you that I come up with these warnings of doom like Marley’s Ghost. I hope not. I hope that everyone spends the next 3 weeks preparing for and enjoying a sensible, moderate and affordable Christmas. I hope that like Mr. Scrooge you will learn the lessons of Christmas are far more important than what you do with a ‘few of your earthly pounds’.

Above all if you had a few too many and are out onAllerton Roadon Christmas Eve and announce in a slurred voice, “We only do it for the Kids!” watch out for a strange man with antlers. An antler might end up in a place where antlers aren’t supposed to go!

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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