Friday 14 December 2018

Ring the changes and have a happy Christmas

Festive dinner
Festive dinner

John Masterson

I will probably not be forgiven for this but here goes. It is time to think about Christmas. I know it is July but I have a good reason. You can't tell the truth about Christmas in the month of December because the party line is that it is a magical time of year that we have to enjoy with a permanent smile on our face. Funny how if you have a conversation about Christmas in July you learn a lot about how people really feel about it. We all have an emotional link to the few days around December 25 and not all of those links are filled with mirth and happiness.

The festive season is on my mind because my plans are made and if I am still an active resident on this planet, I will be visiting a part of it that I love with people whom I love and who can tolerate me. For me, it is just another holiday. Even as a child I knew that the Bible story was just that, a story, so there has never been any religious aspect to Christmas. That said, I think the dictat about saying Happy Holiday instead of Happy Christmas is just politically correct nonsense. I am happy to keep saying Christmas just to annoy them.

Put any group of people around a table and begin talking about Christmas and I guarantee you will know more about their family, upbringing and attitudes than you will learn from any other topic. And you will be surprised by how many people dread the time of year and only go through with it for the children who will perpetuate all the nonsense, but maybe with happier memories.

Soon there will be stories about overindulgence, including too much to drink. There will be stories about the behaviour of family members who are barely seen for the rest of the year and that is the way people like it. There will be heart-warming stories about how hard times once were and how little people had. And bitter stories where people have long carried memories about things that were said and done. Christmas is a good time for the family row. The slights of previous years will spill over as a result of one seemingly innocuous remark or act, and all hell breaks loose.

My mother was not a lover of Christmas because the man who raised her (her own father died when she was four) died on a Christmas Eve. The memories of that year never left her and never seemed to much diminish. There were traditions that she established that continue to this day. The carols from St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin will be played while the turkey is being stuffed. These tunes go through all defences and the emotions well up. Friends used to tease me as a child that the Protestants got all the good tunes. It is probably true. And don't pay any attention to the words because they comprise some of the greatest drivel ever written in the English language. The sight of grown adults singing Away in a Manger is hard to stomach.

Make your plans now. Decide who you want to be with and where you want to be. Do not make any allowances for toxic people because of the time of year. Plan ahead. If you spend New Year with your loved one talking about the 15th year Uncle Mick has been plastered, and how your cousin cannot control her brats, it is your own fault.

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