Wednesday 28 January 2015

Party through the pain

Singing about your ding-a-ling and tying yellow ribbons round the old oak tree are just two reasons why living your life through Seventies pop lyrics is wrong. But in these recessionary times there's one exception -- because I wish it could be Christmas every day.

The silent majority that adore the festive season desperately need to stand up for Santa. Christmas 2008 has barely made it to this point. It is currently staggering to the finish line like an Irish athlete at the Beijing Olympics.

Up and down the country, Christmas parties have been cancelled, Pat Kenny got the Late Late Toy Show embroiled in controversy, while retailers are hysterical with fear.

Even our party-animal Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, isn't hosting an official party for his 200 staff in the Department of the Taoiseach this year. It was enough to have Fine Gael TD Michael Ring anxiously pondering the future of Christmas itself.

"I suppose the next thing that the Taoiseach will be asking for is that we suspend Christmas altogether, and we'll be told that Santa is not coming this year," he commented wryly.

We hardly need more proof, but you know there's something seriously wrong when the Late Late Toy Show becomes the subject of a major controversy.

Normally, the only talking points about the programme would revolve around which naff Christmas jumper Pat might wear on the night. But this Christmas is so crazy, Pat Kenny got himself embroiled in a Sinead O'Connor-style controversy and ripped up two Late Late Toy Show tickets live on air.

Pat lost his rag because competition winner Barbara Heavey from Cork turned down the offer of Toy Show tickets because she "wasn't particularly interested". That got Pat's tinsel in a right knot.

Nearly as unusual as Pat letting his guard drop on the Late Late Show is the global credit crunch, which has snookered our spending plans for the festive season. Out on the high street, consumers and retailers have been hit by so many problems, you'd think a certain Dr Seuss baddie had scuppered the end-of-year celebrations.

Economists reckon retailers are facing a perfect storm -- cash-strapped consumers are not spending, just as the cost of the goods in shops, bought in from foreign manufacturers, rockets.

The global economy isn't the only enemy of festivity. The credit crunch has nearly consigned the Christmas present to the past and, in doing so, it has found a welcome ally in the Irish upper-middle class. Their sniffiness about celebrating Christmas is similar to their nose-holding about other Germanic traditions we've imported, such as Lidl and Aldi.

These are the people who get indignant about frilly Communion dresses, extravagant weddings and the attraction of Daniel O'Donnell concerts. If they buy Christmas pressies, it will have to be something miserable; say, a voucher for a half-share in a camel for some Bedouin. Festive decorations for them would involve a minimalist inflatable Christmas tree from Muji. That's if they don't leave the country altogether on some cut-price package to Morocco and have a sweltering Christmas dinner consisting of overpriced couscous in a restaurant in Agadir.

Indeed, they'd frown upon any shindig at which people have a good time.

The Christmas Grinches aren't confined to Ireland -- oh no, they're also out in force in the UK.

Compared with the prospect of making and giving preserved fruit and vegetables as Christmas presents, crammed department stores on Christmas Eve sound positively appealing.

This sniffiness is part of the anti-consumerist cottage industry that has been nurtured in the Noughties, when buoyant economies made it easy to worry about big corporations and nefarious marketing campaigns. Books such as No Logo by Naomi Klein and, more recently, Affluenza by Oliver James, have targeted shopping as the root of much, if not all, evil.

James, who's a psychologist, blames consumerism for the high rates of mental illness in the western world.

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