On The First Day of Christmas

We all know the carol, right? On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me… but when actually is the first day of Christmas? As Nigel says exasperatedly to Adam in Rev, ‘if I have to tell one more person it’s not Christmas yet, it’s Advent, I shall go stark staring bananas.’ I can’t find a clip but I promise you that’s actually what he said. Meanwhile here’s another quite pertinent clip:


Technically Nigel is correct: it’s Advent until Christmas Eve when the festive season actually begins. It may actually begin with Midnight Mass, I couldn’t swear to it. You’d think I’d know these things having been brought up in or very near the church, but I’ve blotted it all out – much as the church spire used to blot out the view… anyway, the first day of Christmas is actually Christmas Day, and the season of Christmas is the twelve days thereafter.

Not that you’d know it now. Christmas begins as soon as someone can get away with setting it all off. Of course this year is different, but normally you sense that retailers are nervously watching each other wondering who will be the first to break cover and announce their Christmas collection. It’s generally some time in October; we don’t even get the chance to celebrate Guy Fawkes (don’t get me started on Hallowe’en) in fact the children have barely settled into another school term before the Great Rush begins. By Christmas Day evening it’s all over; the presents have been torn open, the dinner eaten, the crackers pulled, the Queen watched (or avoided) and the dishwasher stacked. Or some poor sod sent into the kitchen to wash it all up.

It’s not that I’m particularly a traditionalist. I’m not Nigel, but I do deplore the over-commercialisation of Christmas, the guilt, the sense that you have to show you care by buying expensive presents, the overindulgence in food and drink. But more than all that, it’s the fact that Christmas nowadays is completely front-loaded. The whole thing is out of balance; we jettison the period of fasting and reflection and skip straight to the feasting. All cultures – so far as I know – celebrate something; the new moon, the harvest, a new birth, a coming to man- or womanhood. Jesus was not born on 25th December; the Midwinter celebration is much older than Christianity which was merely grafted onto it. But all traditional cultures have fasting as well as feasting and all the major religions include periods of abstinence as part of their calendar. It’s about balance – and our culture is way out of balance.

I’ve also become somewhat plaintive about the absence of the Queen from our airwaves. I’m not a flag-waving royalist; I’m on the fence about the monarchy, but I do think she should have put in more than one appearance during the current crisis (or crises). I think she should have made a series of speeches to encourage people which, though they might have nauseated some, would have provided comfort to others. If we’re going to have figureheads like the Queen, they should at least pop up and say something in dark times. So whether it’s her decision not to speak or someone else’s it’s a bad decision. Mind you, I wouldn’t put it past Johnson to prevent it on the grounds that it might make him look bad.

Or worse.

Anyway, that’s where we are. We try to celebrate Christmas by not panicking and not buying too much, just a few nice things. Oh god, how many presents have I got left to buy? Can I get my Sainsbury’s order in on time? Oh no, I haven’t sent any cards yet!

Aaaaaaaaaaaand breathe.

And let’s spare a thought for those who are going to be alone.

Kirk out

4 thoughts on “On The First Day of Christmas

  1. I have never watched Rev; I am very choosy when it comes to that much [and, possibly, unfairly] maligned television genre, the sitcom – Ghosts is one recent and notable exception – but that must be the funniest nervous breakdown I have ever seen, and well done to Tom Hollander: great job. With regard to Christmas [which I somewhat grudgingly capitalise: I wish we could, like the Germans, be consistent with our noun & adjective capitalisation], we [the British] seem to have fallen into a collective cognitive dissonance. Most of us know very well, and predominantly loathe, that the festival has become an almost unavoidable spending-fest, and yet we [mostly] passively acquiesce; the same, but to a much lesser extent, with religion, the traditional basis for Christmas: I can understand, and accept to a large extent, that singing carols, most of which have a religious basis, in church at this time of year, can be a mutually enjoyable social experience [this year being an unavoidable exception, of course], but for me there is nevertheless something inherently hypocritical about it; still, far be it from me to be judgmental, and as the old saying goes, if it feels good, do it.

    As far as the other C-word is concerned, I made a conscious decision several years ago now, to stop buying Christmas presents [I’d stopped sending traditional cards before that]; I felt somewhat guilty, of course, where my daughters were concerned, because I didn’t want them to think I didn’t care, but they are both adults, and they know me well enough to understand that this is most definitely not the case: if they needed something, either material or financial, I would gladly give it, and that doesn’t preclude spontaneity [and I love sharing my culinary efforts], but I just really came to resent this annual obligation that commerce whips up into a maelstrom of expectation.

    As for the queen: if I haven’t already said, I dislike everything about this institution; it’s not personal, but the monarchy embodies nearly everything that is wrong with our country. As America has shown many times, having an elected head of state [and why do WE need a separate head of state: it’s another layer of expense & pomp that could be stripped away if the prime minister fulfilled that function?] can be fraught with problems, but the essential point for me is that it is a fundamental plank of democracy, that the holder of the office is elected; and, by implication, can be stripped of the office; whereas our head of state is hereditary, and I find all the fawning, sycophancy & privilege associated with the institution nauseating.

    All that said, and I’m not an official Pagan, I celebrate the winter solstice for entirely utilitarian reasons. If you want a holiday, be my guest: Merry Christmas! 😀 Cheers, Jon.

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