Writer and English Tutor, Jude Hayland shares her love of Christmas with us.
I have a big confession to make that needs to be out in the open. No holds barred...
I love Christmas. There. I’ve said it. And even as my fingers are tapping out the words, the syllables leaving the keyboard to deposit themselves neatly on the blank screen, I am preparing for a rear-guard action, for a veritable condemnation by massing hoards judging me as a sentimental and sadly mistaken weak-willed woman.
Because these days, it seems that admitting to loving Christmas risks being judged as a victim of its over-commercialisation. The fall guy for the potentially excessive extravagances of the season that can fritter away income and cause credit cards to wilt and dissolve into melt down faster than pine needles drop from the tree.
But I do. Love Christmas, I mean. At least these days I do.
Because, let’s face it. Christmas is not always easy. It can be a fairly horrific time for a variety of reasons.
Jo March might have thought she had problems when she declared that Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents, lying on the rug in front of her roaring fire in deepest Massachusetts surrounded by her siblings. Their father might have been away at the civil war, cantankerous Aunt March on the war path and Beth about to catch scarlet fever, but at least they had each other and their tracts from Pilgrim’s Progress to sustain them. And Mole might have worried that there was nothing to feed the carol- singing field mice until resourceful old Ratty came to the rescue and sent off one of the singers to fetch provisions and home-made, no tinned stuff – do the best you can!
Even old Scrooge found that his ghosts had managed to swing from past, present to future and back in one brief night so that he could radically reform himself in time to buy a big turkey and come to Tiny Tim’s rescue. So all our faithful fictional friends survive the season fairly amenably.
Which brings us back to the real world.
Part of the problem with the festive season is that it sets itself up to fail. For Christmas is, if the truth be told, far too over confident, bragging and boastful about its merits. It’s a bit like going to see a film that the critics have raved about, that’s been tipped for Oscar domination and billed as unmissable and finding it just – well, so-so. Mediocre and vaguely tolerable rather than hitting the stratosphere. And Christmases can sink lower than mediocre.
Believe me, I’ve been there in the past.
Those festive seasons when everyone else – friends and family alike– seem gilded with the fairy dust of happiness, sporting new loves, new offspring, new hope whilst you are scraping the barrel simply, singly, to survive. Then, a couple of decades on, just as one’s own equilibrium is set for a calm sail over the tinsel-clad waves of Christmas, the adolescents of the family choose the season for a stormy, tearful break-up, an implosion that confines them to the solitary darkness of their rooms, like Trappist monks on a long retreat. Fond grandparents are bewildered at their transformation that appears to have happened over the course of a year- from angelic cherubs glued to umpteen repeats of The Snowman into surly individuals willing only to communicate with a mobile phone. And, of course, it’s left to the bridging generation to find a fixed smile, attach it to a strained, weary face, and suggest tea, pour gin, start a diverting discourse about the price of a loaf of bread.
Yes, Ding Dong Merrily is certainly not guaranteed to be on everyone’s lips every December 25th, year in year out.
But life has a habit of moving on. Past Christmases stack up and there’s a change. Expectation is not so much diminished as adjusted. A glass of mulled wine half-full rather than the semi-empty variety kind of thing. And suddenly, the sight of the Christmas tree going up in town, the children from the local primary school carolling about a figgy pudding, numbed fingers stuffed in pockets, ears and noses competing for redness, are seen through a different prism. And you even find yourself humming along with the predictable trawl through 'Have yourself a merry little Christmas' and 'I’m dreaming of …' as you negotiate the crowded aisles of the supermarket for sprouts and stilton and selection boxes and some superior prosecco.
Because, actually, when all’s said and done, Christmas is not at all a bad thing. Any season that gives house room to the idea of spreading gladness and goodwill has something to recommend itself, after all. We could all do with extra helpings of that.
And then there’s the prospect of what inevitably follows once the month of December shifts itself to one side: that long sombre slog through 31 days of bleak, cheerless January.
So enjoy. Celebrate.
Christmas is here to stay. Make the most of it!