Saturday 1 October 2016

Recipe for a snappy Christmas when it all begins too early

Published 28/11/2015 | 02:30

The poet Patrick Kavanagh
The poet Patrick Kavanagh

The cheerful song came trilling out of the speakers as I stood by the supermarket till on a drizzly morning: "Sim-ply hav-in' a wonderful Christ-mas time..."

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Well sorry to disappoint you, Mr Paul McCartney. You may be the greatest songwriter who ever lived, but I'm simply not having a wonderful Christmas time - even if my local supermarket has a two-for-one offer on festive marshmallows.

That is because we have not even reached the end of November.

The relentless bombardment of saccharine Yuletide dirges since Halloween has been grating on my nerves.

I can't turn on the television any more; I have switched off the wireless; and I can't walk through the bauble-infested streets without wanting to utter the suitable words of Ebenezer Scrooge: "Bah Humbug!"

And that one final dose of "wonderful Christmas time" drove me over the edge.

It was the "ding, dong, ding, dong" of the chorus that finally did it.

Oliver Cromwell may not have been everyone's cup of seasonally spiced tea, but now I know how the devoutly Christian Puritans felt when they banned Christmas completely.

I would not necessarily go quite that far in a Christmas clampdown, but it is high time that we had some kind of time restrictions.

The choir of angels should be stopped from singing their song, and locked in a dungeon with their halos and tinsel, and "ding, dong, ding dong", at least until December 1.

With all due respect to cheery Ryan Tubridy, his jolly festive jumpers, and audience of one and a half million, the Late Late Toy Show is now much too early - and should be delayed until the middle of December at the earliest.

The sight of precocious nippers playing with toys or acting like tweenie, mini-me, boyband popstars, almost one full month before the real event, when the leaves have barely fallen from the trees, induces a queasy sense of panic.

Should I be out on the street shopping, crazily knocking over old ladies in a queue for Eau de Parfum gift sets? That kind of behaviour is surely only appropriate on Christmas Eve.

And the most distressing thing of all is that it has been going on for weeks, and almost everyone seems to think it is perfectly normal. The sight of baubles and Santa figurines next to Halloween pumpkins and Scream masks weeks ago knocked the seasons out of kilter.

The return of the downright premature Christmas phenomenon is as much a downside of the recovery as four-mile snarl-ups on Dublin's M50. We had this in the Celtic Tiger era as well and, mercifully, it disappeared for a short time in the recession

It almost, well almost, made me feel nostalgic for the day exactly five years ago when the Troika arrived. There was snow on the ground, and a power cut in my area, as Brian Cowen made his broadcast to the nation. I listened on a crackling radio.

As the grim reapers of the IMF strolled along Merrion Street, the very notion that anyone would have been out Christmas shopping would have been considered preposterous, because we didn't have two cents to rub together.

Unless my memory is playing tricks with me, there was no Black Friday then, either. That new festival of vulgarity seems to have appeared on the November calendar like an unwelcome rash.

I'll say this much for Black Friday. At least, the name is appropriate.

We should fly black flags and wear black armbands, as it marks the day when we sacrificed any semblance of good taste and decorum on the altar of crass consumerism.

I remember travelling through Dublin with a taxi driver who had known the poet Patrick Kavanagh (pictured). He said Kavanagh was the grumpiest man in Dublin.

Grumpy he may have been, but Kavanagh's poem Advent reminds us that in the run-up to Christmas, all the frantic retail razzmatazz and insipid muzack spoil the excitement of the season: "Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder."

So I think in future on Black Friday, like Kavanagh, I'll retreat to an "Advent-darkened room" - "where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea of penance will charm back the luxury of a child's soul".

Irish Independent

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