I’m not religious; never have been. I completely respect other people’s faiths and life choices, and best of luck to them: it just ain’t for me. It’s also been many years since there was the patter of tiny feet around the house, and those little hands shaking me awake in the morning to see if Santa’s been during the night. Without either of the above in my life, I have no real reason to do Christmas.
I also struggle to understand how a certain cola company managed to exert such an influence on the proceedings. You do know Santa originally wore green, don’t you? Google it!
Then there are those damn perfume adds. What the hell are they about? ‘Be the man of tomorrow’ was the catch-line in a recent one. Well, if it’s alright with you, I’ll get right on that in the morning. Even the adverts at this time of year don’t have to make sense as long as we keep on spending.
Harbour an ambition to make it unmolested down the high street of any reasonably sized town, and you’ll be seriously disappointed, as ‘charity sales-people’ wait in packs to pounce upon unsuspecting prey. If, like me, you pay what you can to carefully selected charities via direct-debit, then it’s doubly annoying. I wouldn’t mind so much if they weren’t on commission, and I hadn’t had to beat the same people off a month ago peddling an entirely different cause.
Now, the buskers that come out to entertain and scrape together a few extra quid; I don’t mind them at all: they’re putting themselves out there, braving the hordes, and subjecting their talents to a fickle audience. The dude who was standing on one leg on a slack-line, while playing the theme tune to ‘Last of the Mohicans’ on his violin; he certainly earned his cash. Just the effort it must have taken him to transport the necessary scaffolding deserved applause.
Then there was the young lad who was amazing on his violin, and had a range of CDs to tempt passers-by: talented and enterprising, I respect that. Or the young girl who blasted the trumpet with all her heart: not perfect, but it melted this family’s collective heart and we couldn’t pass by without a smile and dropping a coin or two.
The point is, these days, what exactly is Christmas about anyway? I’m reliably informed by the usual army of glitter-wearing ‘enforcers’ that ‘tis the season to be jolly’. Say what? It was perfectly OK to be a miserable bugger last month (which I distinctly remember some of them being), but a crappy X-mas jumper transforms them into the ‘joy-police’.
Consequently, I find it safer to hide. If I must venture forth among the masses, I flash a fake smile when necessary, and make allowances for the mass hysteria that’s apparently gripped the nation once more. Imagine my delight to discover that our favourite restaurant had no decorations or seasonal music blaring everywhere on an endless loop! Sanctuary, and amazing food: a Christmas miracle after-all?
It’s not that I begrudge everyone having an amazing time: whether they truly are, or whether they’re going with the flow is perhaps debatable – in my previous job, I witnessed enough drink-fuelled violence at this time of year to legitimately wonder.
The point is, I don’t want to be told how I should be feeling just because it’s the season of ‘peace on earth and good will to all’. Truth be told, I try to be consistent all year round, and do so without the need for external approval. Perhaps there’s something amiss when the aspiration to be good towards others only lasts until the end of December?
What always makes me smile is when I see a fellow ‘grinch’ attempting to navigate the season without imploding. I don’t question why they can’t fully engage with the festivities: their reason is personal, and I wouldn’t attempt to ask why. I smile because I understand, and respect their need to be given space. All these people want is to be treated as normal; for them it’s just another day.
The reality is, that there are many people for whom Christmas doesn’t equate with joy; serving only to remind them of what they’ve lost: there are parents who can’t be with their children; those who mourn loved ones; or those who simply struggle to put food on the plate.
So just in case you ever feel the need to label anyone a ‘grinch’ or a ‘grumpy-pants’ – my dentist’s receptionist actually tried to pin a sticker on me bearing that title – think twice. Surely the concept of ‘peace on earth’ equates to having the grace to let others express themselves as they wish; without judgement.
There are many who can’t wait for the new year to arrive: for it to be all over so they can become invisible once more; with no-one being artificially jolly or passing judgement on a lack of engagement.
While I hope that Christmas gave you everything you wished for, spare a thought for the grinches of the world. Are they (we) really being grumpy, or are they quietly contemplating, remembering, coping? Perhaps they are more aware than most as to what’s truly important in life, and it isn’t glitter.