The festivities are almost upon us and, as ever, I’m finding myself a little torn. I hear Kirsty and Shane on Radio Two (which didn’t have to be bullied by its listeners into uncensoring the track — largely because its controllers weren’t fucking stupid enough to censor it in the first place!) singing “you scumbag, you maggott, you cheap lousy faggot” and I get all misty eyed, thinking, Oh, that jolly old time of tinsel and stars and mince pies is upon us once more! Or words to that effect. There are angels and shepherds and stuff and peace on earth and…
… and then I feel that old familiar tug. Do I really care? Has Christmas, bearing in mind my all-too-obvious lack of belief, anything for me?
Richard Dawkins, much to the sixth-form-esque amusement of the intellectually challenged (Libby Purves springs to mind), recently described himself as a “cultural Christian” — and when I read of him saying that, yes, he, the dyed-in-the-wool atheist, even enjoyed singing certain carols, I applauded him. He must have realised that he was paving the way for (utterly stupid) questions like “How can you enjoy singing words you don’t believe in?” etc. I’m not going to address that here, though. Such questions show a marked lack of imagination. The fact is, Dawkins was happy to acknowledge that religion can have an aesthetic impact even on someone with no belief in a god, and I welcome that.
At the other end of the spectrum is dear old Christopher Hitchens. Bless him. The Ghost of Christmases That Bloody-Well Never Should Have Been. As antagonistic as he can be, and whilst I would never flee to Cuba to avoid the festivities, as he would, I still kind of admire his complete hatred (I don’t think that’s too strong a word) of the season. I know he too appreciates certain aesthetic accomplishments of “religion”, so whilst he isn’t exactly diametrically opposed to Dawkins’ position, it does seem to me laudably uncompromising (oh, okay, so he admits to enjoying the process of putting up and taking down the plastic tree with his daughter — we all bend a little where kids are concerned… I hope.) He walks the walk.
So where does this leave me? Unlike Dawkins, I don’t especially enjoy carols. The story of the Nativity holds no interest to me (although I was an impressive Joseph at the age of seven… my wheelchair was the donkey, Mary pushed it and Jesus was consequently three weeks premature.) I can certainly appreciate the spirit of Christmas and am willing to concede I’m likely to be more tolerant at this time of year. I enjoy and relish the time spent with my parents, catching up with family and friends and so on. The whole “party” aspect no longer appeals. I have neither the energy nor the inclination. And as for the commercial aspect… well, I find it all a little sad and pathetic. Gift-giving is wonderful, but such excess? I think not.
On the whole, it’s a time of year I enjoy — though, I must admit, my enjoyment comes more and more from not buying into it. Am I a Dawkins or a Hitch? I swing, I guess. I’d like to say I’m a pleasant middle-ground, but that isn’t really true. I make it what I want and need it to be. The Christian and even the Pagan associations are no longer of any concern to me, but I don’t feel (usually) the need to flee to Cuba at the mere sound of the opening bars of “Jingle Bell Rock.”
And on that note, given that I may not be posting over the next few days (though I might if the turkey takes longer than expected ), I’d like to take this opportunity to say, from the bottom of my heart…
(However you celebrate, be safe, be happy and if you’re down Cuba way and happen to see Old Hitch — give him a kiss under the mistletoe from me.)