Just a quick one this week because it’s Christmas and I’m feel as though that’s sufficient reason to slack off and drink sherry instead of writing things. I was tempted to take the week off entirely. However, I’d like to be able to say, at some later date, that I have blogged every week for a given length of time. Being able to say that I’ve done it every week excepting this one doesn’t sound quite so much of an achievement.
Despite the annual assurances I receive from the Mail et al that Christmas is under attack (presumably this attack originates from some nefarious alliance of communists, Muslims and militant homosexuals). Despite these assurances, however, the festival seems to be in excellent health. It’s certainly a resilient fucker. Yesterday I braved the local shopping centre, along with the rest of the consumerist horde. I spent a good few hours shuffling between merchants, exchanging the hours of my life for an assortment of useless tat which my loved ones will be forced to pretend to appreciate. No-one there seemed to think that Christmas was in any sort of danger. The entire thing has been a source of great worry and most exquisite dread, but I’ve at least got something.
Even more annoying than the ‘it’s a Christian holiday’ people are the ‘it’s a pagan holiday’ people. Fuck, how annoying are the people that say this? Those smart-aleccy clever-dicks. Next time someone says this to you, you might be tempted to passively nod your head and shovel another mince pie into your mouth, in the hope that someone else will join the conversation while you are mid-mastication, allowing you to subtly slip from the kitchen and back to the room where the fun people are.
Okay. I did a bit of research to find out what this is all about. Christmas is a rebranded version of the roman pagan festival Saturnalia, which always took place on the week leading up to December 25th. During this time the courts all closed, creating effective anarchy; everyone got absolutely trashed, walked around naked singing in the street and shagged whoever they damn well pleased (with or without the consent of the other party). God damn. Even Caligula thought this was too crazy. He tried to get it cut down to five days of debauched anarchy, but the people refused. That’s how fucking crazy it was.
Whatever. Fourth century AD, the Christians decide that they want all the pagans to convert to Christianity, and that a rebranding exercise is in order. So they announce that the birth of Christ happened to coincide with the climax of this monumental cluster-bang. Everyone is happy to go along with that, or too drunk to care.
So yes, Christianity appropriated a pagan holiday. But that doesn’t mean Christmas as we celebrate it now is a pagan holiday. It’s not even a Christian one. It’s just a big bunch of traditions randomly stuck together. The mistletoe thing is borrowed from druidic human sacrifice. The tree’s origin seems to lie in 16th century Germany. Santa Claus is, as everyone knows, some hideous Frankenstein version of some 4th century Greek bishop resurrected and forced to sell Coca-Cola every year with a big red truck.
Some of these practices will go on forever, others will not. I like some of them. I certainly do disapprove of the industrialisation of this gift-giving tradition. I sometimes wonder what Christmas will look like in a thousand years. Santa Claus will probably fall victim to Operation Yewtree, and all of his reindeer will be turned loose into the forest of Lemenjoki, where they will wander forlornly until a pack of especially pointy-toothed wargs arrive to relieve them of their entrails.
But the other stuff might last. The most enduring tradition of the lot is the one that permits you to get absolutely wankered while in the company of friends. That one’s lasted a few thousand years. I suppose it’ll last for a few thousand more years to come. But you’ll all be dead by then, so who cares, right?
I’ll drink to that.