I vividly remember setting about to write to Father Christmas, asking for a He-man ‘Castle Greyskull’, only to be stopped in my tracks. Our chubby benefactor would never stretch to such a costly gift, I was informed. Fair enough, I thought and asked for a cheaper option. So imagine my shock when I discovered that friends of mine had received ‘Castle Greyskull’ from Santa. Where had I gone wrong?
It’s not only Santa who’s in a giving mood at this time of year.
Here are my hacks to make Christmas (almost) bearable. You can thank me later.
Here’s my latest piece for The Eastern Daily Press, all about my trip to talk to Santa at The North Pole. Have a read.
I’m led by an elf (whose name I didn’t catch – could it have been ‘Squeaky’?) through the vast workshop complex here at the (rather chilly) North Pole. ‘Impressive’ doesn’t begin to describe Santa’s HQ, candy-striped elves fill every nook and cranny doing anything from painting rocking horses to soldering tablet computers (I make a mental note to consult an elf next time my laptop plays up. Although I’m not exactly sure how I’d get hold of one, they don’t use social media ‘It’s bad for your elf’ says one rather smug fellow).
If Christmas didn’t exist, we’d need to invent it.
It’s no coincidence that the feast lies at the darkest part of the year, literally ‘in the bleak mid-winter’. A time when we need something to look forward to, a pick-me-up. Pre-Christian society understood this, with their ‘Yuletide’ winter solstice celebrations, which were neatly ‘re skinned’ (using a modern parlance) by early Christianity with the familiar Bethlehem-based narrative. The story changed, but the heart of the feast remained the same – communities coming together to celebrate, during the bleakest of seasons.
The mid-winter oasis of the ‘festive season’ was, for generations, the exclusive territory of religion. But things change, meaning evolves and time moves on. We know, of course, that the ‘holidays’ so movingly crooned of in the Cola commercial are a contraction of the Christian ‘holy days’. Yet the word no longer has an ecclesiastical connotation. The same might be said of ‘Christmas’ itself – an abbreviation of ‘Christ’s Mass’, which (I feel) wouldn’t be the primary definition for most. Like ‘holiday’, the word has new common meaning: a festive period of goodwill and joviality. There are new myths and traditions too, with John Lewis and Coca Cola at the heart of these, here in this country.
I wish those who choose to celebrate the religious during this festive time well. They do not, however, have a monopoly on ‘the true meaning of Christmas’.