‘Twas the Flash before Christmas

He slipped slowly down the sofa onto the floor. He woke with a start and saw that the party was winding down. After examining the pattern of the carpet for a few seconds, he picked himself up and made his way to the hall, swaying as he walked. ‘I’m going now. Merry Christmas everyone! See you in the New Year.’ he shouted in a slurred voice at no one in particular. He picked up his jacket from the coat tree, knocking it over in the process. Closing the door gently behind him, he staggered off into the freezing Hertfordshire night singing ‘Fairytale of New York’ stumbling over the pavement and the words. He would not be seen again until New Year.

[I hope you and your families have a happy Christmas and New Year – thanks for reading in 2012]

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The First ‘Ho’

I ‘did’ Christmas yesterday. At 6pm, I hit the Galleria shopping centre just as it began to empty. I ignored the clothes outlet shops full of pre Christmas sales, the specialist outdoor shops and the HMV record store. I remained focussed on the main objective. I passed the Arsenal shop at a pace. If I had been in less determined mood, I would have taken more delight in the fact it was empty, looked at the huge piles of red tat on display and made a wish that that this would be the shop’s first and only Christmas. Daydreaming would have to wait though. This was no time for idle thoughts.
In less than two hours, I bought a few books for my father, books and some gift cards plus all the other necessary items required for Christmas. Tomorrow I will wrap the presents, write those cards and on Monday, they will be posted. Job done, nothing else to do. Waterstones should be bloody grateful though. Despite their woeful bookstore, they are now considerably richer. The kids may not want books but that’s what they’re getting this year and if they don’t like it, well tough. I was in that kind of a mood.
A student ‘Glee’ choir belted out ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’ whilst a young Father Christmas shouted out ‘Ho, ho, ho Merry Christmas!’ and waved his collection bucket in front of passing shoppers. As I approached, he jumped out in front of me, took one look at at me from behind his white beard, stopped at the first ‘Ho’ and moved aside to let me pass. That was one smart kid. He looked into my soul for a brief second and he knew. He knew how I feel about Christmas.
For many people, myself included. Christmas is a difficult time of year. For the religious, Christmas is a time of great joy and hope for the world. I love to read about what Christmas means to them and I am happy for those who believe but my own faith is now damaged and brittle. Many people love the rituals of Christmas and embrace them with an never ending childlike enthusiasm in the same way that others love Disneyland. Whilst I envy them in that, their zeal for the festive season makes it harder for me. I try to turn my level of interest amp up to 11 but it usually blows at around 5 or 6.
Do I hate Christmas? Not at all but I don’t particularly enjoy it either. I just believe firmly that Christmas should be about children. I loved Christmas as a child although as I grew older, it became more about the time spent with my parents than the presents from Santa’s sack. Nor do I have any argument with parents who see Christmas through their childrens’ eyes and try to make each family Christmas magical. I’ve been there myself. I loved Christmas with my girlfriend and her daughter. I will never forget those times both in the build up to Christmas and the holiday itself. Nativity plays, Winter Wonderland, building snowmen, board games; I enjoyed every minute of it, even the shopping! But sadly that’s not my life now.
Lots of people struggle at Christmas for many different reasons. The absence or loss of loved ones, financial worries, loneliness, homelessness, a sense of a life somehow not lived to its full; a myriad of emotions brought to the surface as the world slows down for a few brief hours.
I will be spending Christmas with my Dad. Without a large extended family, Christmas is a modest affair with just the two of us and whilst we are grateful for the time we have together, both of us feel the absence of my Mum; my Dad especially so. I will have my own thoughts too. This has been a difficult year. We will share a quiet Christmas together, do some walking, read books, talk and watch Doctor Who even though we both think it’s gone off the boil. We will remember good times and hope that all our friends are having a wonderful Christmas. However, when the Careline number appears at the bottom of the TV, we will be thinking of those for whom Christmas is simply unbearable and consider ourselves fortunate for what we have.
After Christmas is all over, my Dad and I will say that we ‘enjoyed it in a way’, although what we really mean that we are glad that it is all over for another year. I will ask others how they enjoyed their Christmas and if they should ask me, I will say that mine was ‘quiet’ and move the conversation along. I will have no more need to feign happiness at the sight of a Christmas tree, smile weakly as a charity chugger asks me where my Christmas spirit is or think of excuses to decline an invitation to a Christmas ‘do’. I will no longer be ‘a miserable git’ for not wanting to stand in an overcrowded pub with people I hardly know. I can relax, I can just be me again. Christmas will be over, the world will go back to normal and I will be fine with that.

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