I haven't been bamboozled by Christmas for a long time. I don't look forward to it. It doesn't thrill me and I'm always dreaming of ways to avoid it altogether. This year my strategy was to ignore it, hoping it would just go away. I fantasised about a quiet night at home with Mr Fritz, something nice to eat, a glass or two of sparkling wine and another episode of Outlander.
But of course it didn't turn out that way. Christmas has a hold on people. It's powerful, influential and all-consuming. It's also intrusive and irritating. I hate hearing Christmas carols and jingles while I'm buying groceries, I hate being reminded at every turn that Christmas is around the corner! Really? Is that necessary? It comes around every single year anyway, it's not like it's a one-off surprise, or something new.
The lady at my local market called me a grinch when I told her I'm not that keen on Christmas. She had a pair of ridiculous faux velvet antlers on her head while she said this and then her younger assistant chimed in with, "I love Christmas!" After a little bit of sick came up I just looked at her and said, "Well, I can't stand it!" Really, what I should have asked her was, "Why?"
Oh let me try and guess what her answer would have been - I bet it would have been something banal like - "It's fun." So many people do say that. But what exactly is fun about it? Working through awkward and often difficult family dynamics? Cleaning, cooking, shopping, planning a perfect menu, buying a new outfit and hosting a large crowd? Trying to make conversation with people you don't really connect with (which is often your family), being polite and friendly when all you want to do is lie down on the couch and close your eyes. Or is it the silly hats and cheap crackers? The boring predictable decor or that insidious food and alcohol coma some many live with the next day? Oh, what fun!
Some people are honest enough to say they get tired and drained and they've even had to cull family members in order to make it through the 'festive season.' The build up is too much and goes on far too long. The gift buying gets out of control, which in my opinion appears to be the main focus of Christmas anyway. And forcing festivities and 'fun' is just exhausting.
I get that sometimes, we all just want a little sparkle and a little magic in our otherwise dull lives but placing all our hopes and energy into that one time of the year and taking part in pretence and performances seems futile. For me Christmas is shrouded in sadness and loss. Christmas died in the arse for me when I turned eleven. That's when I started boarding school, that's when I started having Christmases without my parents and that's when I started growing up. Yeah I like pretty decorations and lights as much as the next person, I love the look of a white Christmas which is something I experienced in boarding school but those are all aesthetics. These components for me lack meaning and soul and reality.
Somehow Christmas has become this commercial beast that keeps growing our expectations, our fantasies and our debts. And in the end I'm sure that on some level everyone feels just a little bit let down, just a little bit empty and are thankful when it's finally over..... well, until next year! And then it's repeat all over. How tedious!
Midway through November I did a double take while I was looking through my Instagram feed. A lovely woman I follow started to decorate and prepare for Christmas, and her first post said, "2000 years ago and we still celebrate the birth of Jesus." Wow! Do we? I thought Christmas was about presents and eating and drinking as much as we possibly can. Who even thinks about the birth of Jesus? Okay, some schools and groups might act out the Nativity scene, some people do actually go to church (I was forced to do both of these while I was growing up, I still have photo of me in a shepherd outfit), and I'm sure there are people who volunteer to feed the homeless and give generously.
But this particular post got me thinking about the birth of Jesus, when exactly was he born? Well, here's what I found - nobody actually has a clue!
There is no December 25th mentioned in the Bible and it turns out early Christians didn't even celebrate Christmas nor could they agree on the birthdate of Jesus. The 25th wasn't chosen until the 3rd Century, which was a date that aligned with pagan festivals and were often raucous wild parties.
Hilariously, in 1664 American Puritan Settlers showed their distaste for these parties to such a degree that they passed a legislation that fined anyone caught partying at Christmas 5 shillings! And then much later, in the 1880's, when Germany's Prince Albert moved to England he brought with him the tradition of decorating trees which the English adopted quickly and soon the Americans followed.
So the Christmas we so look forward to each year has only really been around since the mid- 1880's. Other possible birthdates for Jesus based on various calculations and guesses by scholars could be March 28th, September 11th or November 18th.
Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, an authority on this topic no doubt, says, "Though the year of Jesus birth is not reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1. The Christian era, supposed to have its starting point in the year of Jesus birth, is based on a miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus." Well, OMG! How about that?
So now that I know Christmas actually has it's roots in pagan festivals, miscalculations and guesses and is underpinned by commercialism and of course it's partner in crime advertising, I feel even happier not liking it and following on blindly. No wonder this contrived and fantastical time of the year if often referred to as 'the silly season,' because that's exactly what it is.