I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas and so, I suspect, do many people.
One the one extreme we have a gluttonous, consumer led spending boom. On the other we have a deeply spiritual and meaningful religious event. Most of us lie somewhere in the middle of both but increasingly veering towards the consumer end.
Let me make clear from the start that I am not someone of religious faith. In many ways I wish I was but I am not. I work with all the churches in my Ward and recognise that a deep religious faith can often lead to an intense desire to do things with and for the local community – especially for the most deprived members of the community. However there are many aspects of Christmas that I like but let me deal with the dark side first!
I loathe the gross commercialism of Christmas. Aided and abetted by Black Fridays and Panic Saturdays we buy ourselves and others a load of junk much of which is recycled to charity shops or raffle prizes within months. No I don’t want a foot spa thank you very much or most of the other gadgets that are paraded before us. No I won’t be spending Christmas day discussing the price of Turkey and what a bargain I had got at a discounter. I haven’t bought a penguin and have not been persuaded to enter a shop because two fairies have been waving magic wands.
I was shouting at the telly the other night much to Erica’s annoyance. Apparently I often do it during the adverts. “Do you do it when I am not here?”, she asked. I had to admit that I do it even more when I am alone as I don’t have to worry about being told off. But be fair – many of them are totally irritating. Even those that are mildly funny on the first one or two viewings rapidly grate thereafter. Thank goodness I have been away a lot. I have even been let down by the one I usually like – Famous Grouse. Instead of a funny bird that have a man with a beard (who isn’t Santa).
I am fairly immune to advertising. But many are not. I was speaking to one person the other day who was showing me a very small bag she had purchased for £50 – it was probably worth £10 but it had a logo on it which massively bumped the price up. She will be paying the cost of Christmas until about June she told me as she has done year after year. What pointless extravagance. I have just given myself my present to me! I have invested a small amount of money with Lend with Care and will invest it in some micro businesses in the developing world. This will be a present I really look at throughout the year to see how the investments are going and see if I can reinvest the repayments that have been made. If you would like to do this all details are at http://www.lendwithcare.org.
On the positive side I love the peace and quiet of Christmas Day. Normally Erica and I walk round watching kids falling off new bikes and families who are content to be with each other for one who none consumer day. We don’t have a Christmas lunch ourselves but entertain our family on Christmas Eve – although we won’t be doing it this year because of time pressures for the Lord Mayor. We do love our granddaughter tearing open her presents and then making her Dad play with them with her. It is our Grandsons’ first Christmas so we have bought him some very loud drums and bashing things (I hope they don’t end up at our house!)
My late father used to love indoor fireworks. He would prepare little tableaux for us to watch whilst he lit them and put them out. No-one ever liked to tell him that no-one except him really liked them. It took me 20 years to tell my Mum that I really didn’t like the Kendal Mint Cake she always got me and gave it away about three days later to someone who did!
I love the way that communities come together to do things for others at Christmas. Last night Erica and Rachel were out with the Allerton Scouts raising money. We have had invites to Christmas dinners and lunches galore as a wide range of organisations try to ensure that no-one in our lovely and friendly city is left alone at this time of year. Today we will be in action at the Lord Mayor’s Christmas Concerts where so many volunteers have given so much to help raise money for Erica’s four charities.
I have so far watched Scrooge three times and have 4 more versions to go. The only one I never watch is the Muppet version. And my favourite is the black and white version starring Alistair Sim.
So on balance I hate Christmas for about three weeks and really like it for the fourth week! This year our Christmas Day will be different. The Lord Mayor will be visiting those people like the Police, Fire, Ambulance and Health services who will be working that day. I have been promoted to be her driver! We will then go to St George’s Hall for a chat with some of the people having lunch at the event arranged by Cllr Jake Morrison. I think that I will then be doing lunch (bacon sandwich accompanied by festive holly sprig) before we go grandchild visiting.
I will be back after Christmas with some special news and my normal mix of, hopefully, outrageous opinion, annoying lectures and selective facts. However, this is my last blog before Christmas so I take the opportunity to hope that the light side wins and that you have a lovely Christmas with friends and family and that the present you get is actually one that you want! In the meantime as Tiny Tim so rightly observes, “God Bless us everyone”.