Christmas 2012 looks like being a real corker. Major, unprecedented flooding in most areas, transport chaos, and a sequel to 'The Snowman'. All three of these things are likely to make tomorrow very difficult for me.
At its core, whether you're religious or not, Christmas is a Very Good Thing. A chance to spend time with family, relax, eat well and practice some generosity and joy-giving before it gradually seeps away as the year progresses, with the evils of the outside world slowly turning your heart into a lump of charcoal. There's nothing wrong with what lies at the heart of Christmas at all.
What annoys me is all the extraneous bullshit that's been tacked on, imperceptibly changing Christmas into something weird and horrific - an increasingly cultish affair, where odd new ceremonies crop up like mushrooms after a storm. We may not have noticed it happening, but Christmas runs the risk of being more about these pseudo-traditions than what it should be about - caring and sharing. Here I will outline four odd rituals that now seem to dominate Christmas.
1. A new one, only into its second year, but showing signs of really having legs is the John Lewis advert. This has become part of the national zeitgeist so quickly that I can't help thinking they put something in the water. The first one was a monumentally tacky and sentimental glimpse at the life of the World's Least Realistic Child, and had the nation in tears. The second has snowmen in it. How it can be that people eagerly await an advert like it actually matters is beyond me - adverts exist solely to increase sales; end of argument.
2. The Top 10 Toys list has been around for ages - I remember it from when I was a kid - but it nevertheless deserves to be fired out a cannon into the sun. Is there any more pervasive, dastardly way to promote one's own products, whilst simultaneously breaking the hearts of parents and children across the land? Think about it - what purpose can the list possibly play other than making parents feel inadequate and children feel insecure about the fact that they really don't like Furbies (they're really scary) and would rather get some Lego, or a bit of bone and a stick from Santa? It is foul and it is evil and it must be stopped.
3. Television is the king of Christmas. It is the magnet to which we are all drawn every year, like hyenas round a rotten buffalo, so we can honk and squeal at the colourful offerings provided by Auntie Beeb and Weird Uncle ITV. Occasionally something worth watching creeps onto the screen (like the original Snowman, for example), but mostly it is a parade of twerps, gurning and jumping around period sets or snow-filled warehouses, whilst we watch agog at the show. Shouldn't we be playing monopoly, or telling stories, or just be getting mightily drunk? I've persevered so far this Christmas, and some real treats so far have included Take Me Out Christmas Special, a very depressing experience, where G-List celebrities hook up with some women for no apparent reason other than they were forced to; and the all-consuming Text Santa, which was so awful I watched it all the way through, as it seemed to be justifying my growing misanthropy. Even the likable Ant and Dec couldn't save that mess.
4. Reports on the economy now try their best to ruin Christmas, with endless news stories about how the major retailers have only sold two lollipops since November and that Curry's, Comet, Cupid and Prancer are all now defunct and penniless because YOU DIDN'T SPEND ENOUGH MONEY. You bastard. There is a real sense of blame to these stories. Yesterday they were bleating about how it was so important that people spend inordinate amounts of money that they couldn't afford, but how the rain may keep us all inside, shivering and sobbing into our empty stockings. How insulting is this? If I need to buy my Dad a Christmas present on the 22nd, I damned well will, rain or no. And I'm not doing it to make the coffers of some business more healthy. Let's face the facts: economic reports to the general populace are rather pointless, as we are all too concerned with our vile, petty lives to give a damn about 'growth'. So they're being used to spread a vague sense of creeping fear, which leads to spending.
And isn't it fascinating that they always use data from VISA sales - VISA being the god of debt and penury...
I've got to stop now, as I'm making myself so angry I can barely see. I'm off to enjoy a mince pie and cup of tea whilst reading some MR James.