Written by Lindsay Nicholson, Churchwarden
I have been asked to write about what Christmas means to me and I have to start by saying this is entirely fortuitous because… well, you see:
My name is Lindsay and I’m a Christmasaholic.
I love every damn thing about the whole festive season. I love crackers and carols and pantomime dames, baubles and fairy lights and watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on TV and hanging up stockings and even the truly terrible lights in Oxford Street.
Well, maybe not the Oxford Street lights this year but everything else. And I hate those magazine articles that say, you know as a change from turkey this year why not have…blah, blah, blah. Or, instead of Christmas pudding why not just serve a healthy fruit salad? Because I love a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, followed by Christmas pudding with both brandy butter and cream and, ideally, with a couple of mince pies on the side. And some Quality Street while I watch the Queen’s speech. And the next day I’ll have the turkey leftovers in sandwiches please with a large slice of Christmas cake to follow.
At the beginning of December I put up a six foot Christmas tree – real, naturally, I never mind about the pine needles, and take it down only with great reluctance on Twelfth night. And in my household everyone – man, woman, child and pet – hangs up a stocking on Christmas Eve. And you know what – Santa always visits, always fills every stocking and there are always bites out of the carrots we leave out for Rudolph and his friends.
And it is, of course, very fortunate that I feel this way because like so many of us, I suspect, Christmas does rather take up rather a large part of the year. Those of you who work in magazines, advertising or PR are familiar with the “Christmas in July” concept which is when all the Christmas ranges are launched. And how you have to suspend disbelief on what is always one of the hottest days of the year and go along to a suite in a hotel where a magical grotto has been created out of fake trees with a CD of Frosty The Snowman playing in the background, and you have to inspect what’s new in the world of chocolate body paint and hear how a toy that you thought had gone out of fashion 10 years ago is back again and going to be absolutely the next big thing. And for those of you who don’t know, Teenage Ninja Turtles are back!
And I don’t mind a bit because by that time I’ve already been planning my own magazine’s Christmas coverage for at least six months. In January or February we’ll have done all our outdoors photography in either New England or Scandinavia where you can get really British looking snow. Because if you wait until later on in the year you really have to go to the Southern hemisphere – Chile probably – which is very expensive and not the same at all.
And if you can’t afford Chile – or, more than likely your art director can’t find it on a map – then you have to shoot in this country, which is always a disaster. For a start the holly doesn’t have berries in the summer, although you can rectify that by sticking on wooden beads painted with nail polish. And the mistletoe has to be imported from Portugal. And, as I’m sure you know, pine trees haven’t taken on board enough water by July to stiffen their branches properly so under the hot photographic lights you get something I like to refer to as “Christmas Tree droop”.
You can mock up the effect of snow on the ground with about 20 bags of household salt – although don’t do as I once did and cover the entire front garden of a location house because you will, as I did, destroy the lawn and all the plant life in the garden and then you will get a writ – which isn’t very Christmassy at all.
On Good Houskeeping, which is my magazine, we always have to send the December issue to press at the end of October, which means that life then gets very confusing because while the real build up to Christmas is happening on the outside, within the magazine we’re making New Year resolutions, devising ways to lose all the weight we put on over Christmas (which of course hasn’t happened yet) and trying to save money (which we haven’t spent yet) and then, worst of all, taste-testing Easter eggs, which usually seems to happen on Christmas Eve. And I don’t know about anyone else but I tend to get very confused and am never quite sure whether I have just overseen so many features about choosing the perfect Christmas gift that I think I must have done it. When in fact I haven’t.
And I expect by now you are thinking what does all his have to do with the real meaning of Christmas? And there’s always some sort of harrumphing about now on the Today programme about how it’s all got too commercial. But actually – and totally personally – I think it’s wonderful. The way a whole nation and many parts of the whole world can go to so much time and trouble and expense to celebrate something that happened in a stable all those years ago. And it may seem a bit of a stretch to see drunken people wearing reindeer antlers trying to hail taxis in December as a form of worship…
But if the grinches of this world prevailed we’d all be very sensible and get the night bus home. But we’re not sensible – thank God.
And even the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets so carried away that he waives the VAT on a truly excruciating rendition of a 20 year old charity single which we then all go out and buy – because we couldn’t live with ourselves if it didn’t reach the top of the charts for Christmas and in a way, it’s a kind of madness. But it’s the sort of madness that on a minor scale affects every family when a new baby is born into it. We get very excited. We spend too much and we drink too much and I, for one, absolutely love it. And I think it’s amazing that the birth of one tiny baby, two thousand years ago, still has the power to move us, and during the darkest months of the year to make the world a better place.
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