Category Archives: christmas
You don’t have to be my most devoted follower to know my general attitude to the season of humbuggery. In summary, I don’t hold with it. I don’t send cards, I don’t give presents (except to children), and I try hard to discourage anyone giving me such things. If I should happen to get you a present, it’ll be a random time of year, and probably opportunistic.
This year for the first time in many, I’ve had a genuinely pleasant surprise with a present. A coffee-table book entitled simply “Beer” amused me when I first opened it, and I think it’s going to be a delight to have around. Thank you F. !
Also for the first time for a while, I’ve overeaten in company on this day. I know my host is a regular reader (and would probably have been eating meat if I hadn’t been there), so thank you again for a truly delicious lunch and entertaining company.
 Any normal book I’d rather have in electronic form than on paper, as I lack space to store the latter. Music is an exception. The coffee-table book is another, that hadn’t even occurred to me before!
Is this the world’s most odious hypocrite?
The pope is reported as condemning the commercialisation of christmas in his midnight mass.
Erm, right, Your Holiness. So what is the purpose of the fabulously wealthy organisation over which you preside? Aha, yes. Amongst the catholic church’s responsibilities, you maintain the communion of saints: individuals you bless as exemplary role models. There’s a saint particularly associated with Christmas: St.Nicholas brings gifts to children. Isn’t that the very commercialisation you condemn?
OK, the original St.Nicholas’s gift of gold was to the three daughters of a nobleman. I guess if you limit your gifts firmly to a tiny elite, you’re distinct from our modern inclusive commercialisation. I guess his message to the masses is to know your place, keep your grubby hands off our tradition, and don’t expect your worthless children to share the privileges of their betters.
Evidently the Victorians were wrong when they gave us the modern Christmas as a season of goodwill. The true spirit of Christmas is that embodied by the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge when he denounced as a humbug the commercialisation inherent in an inclusive Christmas.
But hang on! Doesn’t the Christmas story also tell of rich gifts to one particular child? A child who, unlike St.Nicholas’s beneficiaries, was a humble commoner by birth? Well, no: that’s not necessarily inconsistent either: it’s the giving, not the receiving of gifts that’s inclusive in that story. Maybe a narrative root for the church’s own fabulous wealth. And besides, the three magi aren’t saints: their gifts to a commoner may be commendable by Victorian or modern commercialised values, but they’re not actually blessed by the church.
Good. He’s not a hypocrite after all. Just so long as we don’t get distracted by misguided notions of goodwill to all, his position is perfectly consistent. That is (of course) provided his message didn’t include inconsistencies that the headlines omit.
This is unquestionably the worst time of year. It’s dark most of the day, and to make it worse people are burning coal, wood, and other things turning the air foul. This year remains thoroughly mild, in what may be a reversion to normal after two real winters.
And the season of humbug is in full swing. I can cope with a few stupid lights – even flashing ones. And a salvation army band (or whatever it was) in town playing lots of David Willcocks arrangements.
But the shops are a whole nother story. Not just the display of ‘seasonal’ crap, but bigger crowds than at other times. And that’s not gift shops, toyshops, or even clothes shops, it’s bloomin’ supermarkets. Do they all eat twice as much for the whole month of December?
I wonder if I can bunker down and live on tinned/frozen/miscellaneous longlife food for the next three weeks? Ugh
My littlebig brother has just blogged about christmas.
Well, not exactly about christmas. Rather about explaining christmas to his missus, who grew up in a culture that doesn’t have it. And what he explained wasn’t christmas in general, but christmas day in our family. Even more particular than that, the circumstances as he describes them can’t've existed in full for more than a couple of years, though much of what he describes is perennial.
As ever, his narrative is superb, and in this instance it’s also very funny: I can’t recollect when I last laughed that much! But a moment’s reflection leads me to wonder: is it objectively that funny, or is it also (or even just) because what he describes is, like an in-joke, something he and I know all about, but the outside world can only infer?
 He’s the youngest of the family, but also the tallest.
Dear Lazyweb, any recommendations for a relaxing break over the so-called festive season? Ideally somewhere local to southwest England, to avoid excessive travel misery. Should be free of humbuggery such as piped muzak, tinsel and lights, cut-down or artificial trees, or fat men in red and white.
I had contemplated taking the ferry from Plymouth to Spain or (second choice) France. But they’re not even running over an extended silly season, so that’s a non-starter. Bah, humbug.
Like all intelligent people, I greatly dislike Christmas. It revolts me to see a whole nation refrain from music for weeks together in order that every man may rifle his neighbour’s pockets under cover of a ghastly general pretence of festivity. It is really an atrocious institution, this Christmas. We must be gluttonous because it is Christmas. We must be drunken because it is Christmas. We must be insincerely generous; we must buy things that nobody wants, and give them to people we don’t like; we must go to absurd entertainments that make even our little children satirical; we must writhe under venal officiousness from legions of freebooters, all because it is Christmas – that is, because the mass of the population, including the all-powerful middle-class tradesman, depends on a week of license and brigandage, waste and intemperance, to clear off its outstanding liabilities at the end of the year.
- George Bernard Shaw
As usual, our rail network is closing down for an extended period. Apparently that’s to facilitate engineering works (OK, fairy nuff), and because there’s very little demand.
Perhaps the reason there’s no demand is that we’ve come to expect a shutdown, and plan around it?
Some years ago I incurred a large and unwelcome taxi fare because the buses (not trains – which I’d taken the trouble to check) were shut down on new years day, so I was stranded when I arrived at Plymouth station. Since then, I’ve avoided any kind of travel beyond where I can comfortably walk or cycle over the silly season.
So there we have it. You won’t get demand from me unless you provide a service. I expect others could say the same.
Anyway, this year the meeja have started to complain about it. So maybe, just possibly, something might change in future years.
Why is it that throughout December, perfectly normal everyday supermarkets and other food shops are crawling with so many more shoppers than at other times of year?
Do people eat three times as much in December (other than one day – and surely they can’t spend several weeks continually shopping for just that)?
Do people shop to store food for the entire year in December? Seems perverse to me, given that it’s not naturally a season of plenty.
Or do they pay a pilgrimmage to the shops, and just wander around crowding the place out?
I mean, I can understand that some shops – headed by toyshops – should do their best trade in December. But plain supermarkets??? I think I may have to bunker down and live out of frozen and long-life food for the next few weeks.
I have on my desk a letter from the Council, addressed to “The Owner/Occupier” of my address. It tells me they have a planning application to erect four flats, at another address just across the road from me. So that’ll take over the general disturbance to the area when the last lot are finally done. I (and others who will be directly affected) can view the plans at the council’s offices, and have two weeks to comment. The letter is dated December 18th, so two weeks give us until January 1st.
This is the second time I’ve had a notice of this kind in Tavistock. And on both occasions, the two weeks consultation period have come in late december. This time I’m not going anywhere for christmas, so I have the option of going to their offices and (if anyone concerned with planning can be found) demanding to see the plans. OTOH if I want professional advice – for example from a lawyer or civil engineer – I’m going to be stuffed. Many others will be away (as I was last time), or working at full stretch to entertain family and friends.
I said last time this happened that I wouldn’t want to suggest any sinister motive, but if someone wanted to subvert the planning process, this is exactly how I’d expect them to go about it.
But, two out of two? If we just narrow the coincidence down to one week (actually it’s even closer), that gives us a probability of 1/(52*52), or less than 0.0004, of it being pure chance.
There’s a minor furore going on in the UK now about political correctness and christmas. There are stories floating around of people being forbidden christmas decorations in a workplace, or being required to call it something nonreligious like winter-festival. And, while noone can confirm that any of the stories are for real (the most plausible is a story from 1998 that the hang-em/flog-em press is recycling in new garb), everyone agrees it’s nonsense, and they blame that mythical beast, the radical secularist.
Perhaps someone is missing a point here. Noone is offended by christians and families celebrating their festival. But there’s another side to it. Consider a conversation with well-meaning friend (WMF):
WMF: What are you doing for christmas?
WMF: Oh no! Surely you can’t be working? Aren’t you going to see your family?
Me: That means a journey of an hour on the bus and five to six hours on the train, at the worst possible time of year to travel. I’d much rather visit them in January when the buses and trains are running normally, as indeed I did this year.
WMF: Oh, that’s so sad. Well, can we invite you to christmas dinner at least?
Me: No thank you [struggle for an excuse based on difficulty of travel again - aided by darkness, likelihood of bad weather, and lack of buses]
Anyone who has been the subject of, for example, sexual harrassment, will by now see my subtext here: just ****** well leave me alone! Yes, christmas can be horrible, not because I’ve any objection to other people celebrating, but because they won’t let me stay out of it.
I want peace and quiet, and a chance to get some work done. I have to spend most of my days working, and I value my free time. Christmas is far and away the worst possible time not to be working, because I simply won’t get that quality free time:
- As with all bank holidays, the Great Outdoors is crowded, and the people are more likely than at other times to be spoiling it with noise, litter, etc (because it’s a different demographic to the usual, and they’re out there for different reasons).
- It’s too dark, with only 8 hours/day daylight.
- People are under social pressure to have a good time. At the same time, there are no buses. So the roads are not only covered in holidaymakers; there are likely to be disproportionately many drunk drivers. Better to stay at home and work.
- It’s a good time to work – quieter than usual.
Now, if anyone really has been banning christmas, that’s daft: they’re addressing entirely the wrong problem. But the unthinking reaction “it’s good or at worst neutral for everyone” is wrong, too. In this season, avoiding well-meaning but unwanted situations is a real problem.
Perhaps banning decorations in an office really can save someone a lot of pressure to conform, or intolerance of their refusal to do so? But better of course would be to require explicit permission from management, who will of course not refuse a request. That way those who care can decorate by permission, while others are spared harrassment.
The Archbishop of York has attacked these alleged secularists. Taking the charitable view, he’s probably just insensitive and ignorant, and would happily slip into the WMF role of harrassing people like me himself.