Sunday 28 December 2014

Musing on the true meaning of Christmas

The latest of our entries in an Irish Independent student journalist competition, in association with Campus.ie

DURING Christmas certain things are, unfortunately, inevitable. You know that you will eat too much, drink too much, spend too much and ultimately vomit at some point. Or - as we call it in Sligo - Tuesday night.

With all of this going on, it's virtually impossible to focus on the real meaning of the most festive of all seasons. It's hard to decipher what exactly that is but, being so knowledgeable and all, I've got some inside information. I don't like to brag but I saw a television once. *gasps of excitement*.



Now that you've regrouped, I'm going to drop some wisdom grenades. This particular incident of TV voyeurism just so happened to take place in mid-August so, naturally, there was a Christmas advertisement being shown. From what I gather, 25 December has something to do with a bearded fat man and a donkey - I think it originally represented the national holiday for petting zoos. That, or Rolf Harris' birthday. I was never much good at reading in between the lines.



It could be argued that contemporary Christmas is little more than an extensive marketing ploy that leads you to eat too much, drink too much, spend too much and ultimately vomit at some point. Can you see a pattern forming? I wasn't always this bitter, though.



I suppose my untainted Christmas joy began to fade when I was about eight and a certain member of third class decided to inform her less street-smart peers of a few Santa-related home truths. It was one of the first "Oh God, life is actually a big ball of crap" moments I've ever experienced. Did this mean there was no God, and, more importantly, who the hell kept putting money under my pillow when my teeth fell out? Existence as I knew it was forever altered. I don't think I've ever looked at my parents quite the same way again.



Some time has passed since then (I'm now ten) and, thanks to extensive therapy sessions, I have partially moved on with my life. I'm making such great progress that I can now reminisce about Christmases of old. Don't worry, I'm not going to go all Christmas Carol on your ass and start discussing ghosts. I used to have ghosts of Christmas past, present and future but government funding cuts meant my organisation had to scale back on paying superfluous or "dead" members of staff. Goddamn bureaucracy.



Before I reached double digits, December was my absolute favourite time of the year. The sheer, unadulterated excitement a child experiences in the immediate run-up to Christmas morning is arguably the greatest feeling in the world. I remember the joy I felt at receiving my Forever Friends play house when I was four. I believe epic is the word. It was orange (when I was four, everything had to be orange).



I essentially lived there for about a week until the novelty wore off and one of the load-bearing plastic poles gave way. Good times. I still intend to use its layout as a blueprint for building my own house when I reach the age where I think it's fun to build houses. I reckon I'll be able to realise this particular dream when I'm in or around 72.



When I was seven, I accumulated one of my most successful Christmas collections: a Father Ted box set, a bright blue Adidas shell suit (with the obligatory three stripes down the side) and the most amazing purple bike you've ever seen. I was one cool kid. I briefly queried how good old Saint Nick managed to successfully manoeuvre down our modest chimney with four bikes for myself and my sisters but didn't feel the need to dwell on this. Santa is magic and that's all I needed to know.



In contrast, recent Christmas days seem somewhat dull. I no longer want to get up at five o'clock in the morning to inspect my presents as an annual pyjama haul pales in comparison to the heady youthful days of the 1990s. Money seems to be the default gift now. Don't get wrong, cash is useful - I buy things like stickers and cheese all the time. One thing's for sure, though: building a house out of bank notes is neither easy nor wise. If only the government had come to me for advice before the property boom - I'd have set them straight: plastic toy houses are where it's at.



In an attempt to bridge the gap between Christmases old and new, this year I plan to spend the day itself eating a selection box for breakfast, watching The Santa Clause trilogy in one sitting and pumping out the Cliff Richard. And remember, if you find yourself at a loss of what to do this festive season: eat too much, drink too much, spend too much and ultimately vomit at some point.



- If you’re a student who can write concise, topical stories and is deeply engaged in student life, join the Contributors’ Competition and your stories could be published on Ireland’s most popular news website, Independent.ie, this semester.

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