By now you must all think I hate Christmas.
What I hate is the modern Christmas.
When I was a lad, back in the fifties, Christmas was a very special occasion. We looked forward to it with great anticipation, and counted down the days. I remember the excitement of bringing out the Advent Calendar and opening the windows on it each day. It made Christmas seem nearer.
There was never any sign of Christmas coming in those days. The big shops in Dublin used to put up lights and I remember taking trips into the city just to see the lights on McBernies on the Quays [I think they were called McBernies? Does anyone remember?]. But there was never a sign of trees or decorations anywhere else.
Christmas Eve was the start. On that day, we used to buy the tree. There was huge excitement and we’d spend the afternoon putting it up and decorating it. Some households even waited until the children were in bed and asleep before putting the tree up.
So on Christmas Morning, it was a time of great excitement. We would wake at about four. First of all we’d dive for our stockings at the foot of the bed. These held lovely little things. A tube of sweets and little toys [all very inexpensive but that never bothered us in the slightest]. Of course there was an apple and an orange too. We would play with these until the grown-ups were up and about.
The Day had come, and the house was decorated and the tree was up shining in the corner. After Mass, we’d have a big family opening of the presents. The presents were rarely big, but they were so special. There were games, and jigsaws, and Dinky toys and all sorts of things. None of them needed batteries; just imagination. We would play with them all day, apart from the mealtimes.
I still have quite a few of those Dinky cars and Matchbox cars. When Puppychild visits, she always plays with them. She loves them. They have lasted nearly sixty years.
Christmas lasted for twelve days. On Epiphany [the 6th of January], the tree and the decorations would be taken down and we’d start looking forward to Spring.
Nowadays, it is all so different.
I am sick of the mention of Christmas by mid November. Every f*cking advertisement on television is telling me that my Christmas won’t be perfect unless I have a new suite of furniture, or a new phone, or some stinking scent or other. Every shop I enter is playing tacky ‘Christmas music’ at me. Houses are lit up like Heathrow Airport for weeks in advance. When Christmas Day arrives, it is no different from any of the preceding fifty days.
The ‘gifts’ children get are ridiculous. They don’t get anything special because they belong to the "I Want It NOW" generation, so they already have everything. So the poor parents have to get a second mortgage, or tap the moneylender to buy a WII or a flat screen TV for the children’s room.
Of course the presents the children get are not what they want. They are the presents that the television tells them they want, or their friends. Peer pressure is the key these days. All the ‘toys’ have to have batteries and remote controls. The dolls speak and walk and dance. The children need no imagination whatsoever. They are bored with the things after a couple of days [if the yokes haven’t broken in the meantime].
So here is a question..
Of all the toys that will be given this Christmas..
How many will still be giving magic and fun in sixty years time?