I saw a piece to camera from Sonia Poulton before Christmas who felt Hollywood was less than helpful in its portrayal of a Christmas as a sugary confection of unreasonable expectation. True of course because an idealised festive season never accounts for family black sheep, illness & bereavement. My grandfather died on Christmas eve 1968, the pain of that lives on.
I took her point, but it set me thinking. How did my expectation marry up with reality ?
Life is a contrary experience, never all good & usually not all bad, the curate’s egg if you will.
When I was a very young baby boomer I heard the term he/she ‘had a good war’. Remember as a forty niner for me the war played a significant role in the national psyche until in the early 60s.
I now fully understand the terminology.
My father was a fighter pilot & although seriously injured in the Mediterranean he would be the first to admit he had a ‘good war’, my mother likewise (a WAAF). but some family friends spent the war in German or Japanese POW camps. Not the same wartime experience at all.
I digress, what is the ideal Christmas? Were you influenced by Hollywood or something else ?
We Brits aren’t natural aficionados of the Hollywood saccharine Christmas but some of the better Hollywood Christmas films certainly left me with an irrational desire to sample a New York Christmas, of course I mean the New York of the 1950s not the shitehole of today.
My experience & expectation lend more to the influence of Charles Dickens, specifically his wonderful description of Christmas at Dingly Dell from the Pickwick Papers. To be fair Dickens liked an idealized Christmas, log fires, the tree, rum punch, roast goose & figgy pudding. Carols around the piano, Most of us see this as ideal if we dared admit it.
The hostile reception to the Christmas Marks & Spencer ad based on the bah humbug theory of their dysfunctional advertising agency proves my point. I was pleased to be on a Lotus Eaters discussion panel which dissected the abomination.
The point the weirdo ad agency folk had missed is that Christmas is basically for children, it is their time, extended family are another key feature, especially grandparents, shame on anyone who complied with the disgraceful government inspired lockdowned Christmas, the perpetrators of which filled the new year’s honours list.
Of course not only did Dickens influence my Christmas expectations but perhaps most City dwellers of a certain age felt the echoes of films like David Leans This Happy Breed, not patronizing as suggested often by critics born in the 1970s, that’s how it was, warts & all.
I had wonderful childhood Christmases, presents, games, extended family, turkey & trimmings. What old geezer doesn’t remember his first brown paper wrapped Hercules Raleigh bicycle?
As I grew older new treats appeared like the office party on Christmas Eve, when there were mini skirted typing pool ladies & mistletoe, watching amateur drinkers sick up on the train home, the Boxing Day rugger match then back at work the next day
My London Christmas changed in the 1970s. Although remaining a City Slicker professionally I moved to the countr & married. My Christmas became almost Dickensian.
We decorate the tree with baubles collected from all over the world, the usual inexplicable tangle of fairy lights put away so carefully last year & appalling un-Yuletide language from the memsahib as the tree simply won’t point to the ceiling.
Would you believe in the 50s our family tree was adorned with wee candles actually alight? Wartime parents didn’t do ‘elf & safety.
Drinks at our Yorkshire small holding on Christmas Eve (6.00 until 9.00 pm), last guest leaves at midnight as always.
Roast goose at the inlaws (same village) where sadly now there is only one child present, they insist on growing up & buggering off. No Queen’s speech now & nobody would dream of watching King Charles the Woke lecture us on our extravagant lifestyle.
The Boxing Day meet in the town square, not mounted now, my riding days have passed but a convivial rural occasion still. Sometimes the rugby club game up at Pocklington RFC.
A few years ago unusual circumstances (nearly the entire family had fled the county) we spent Christmas at a wonderful country house hotel, champagne, brisk walks In magnificent Dales countryside & lobster for lunch.
Just wasn’t Christmas.
Sonia Poulton was making a point about loneliness at Christmas, surely the most poignant of times for us all.
A heavy cross to bear.
I support a charity over in Bradford for the homeless they do a Christmas dinner every year & our local town does a dinner for OAPs, always successful.
My point is if you are reasonably fit but circumstances have left you alone there will be something near you. Volunteer if you can. Not a god botherer? Doesn’t matter, the Carol service is always uplifting & there is usually a mince pie & glass of mulled wine.
Don’t let the likes of Welby & his agnostic bishops put you off with pulpit politics.
Proactivity is the key.
Christmas can be what you make it.
I hope you had a good one & the new year brings us all a better deal.
Credit to Going Postal for First Publishing & Editorial