The almost annual matra that Christmas is becoming more commercialised/ commodified/ excessive/ consumer driven/ any other criticism is something that most partake in.
It could even be suggested that age is critical in this, with your number of years being directly proportional to the number of times you say that Christmas is not how it used to be. Having done so, we then reflect on some idyllic Christmas past that was much better than any Christmas that we could have today: the Christmas present.
And to prove my point, you have to look no further than the mighty Slade who wholeheartedly agreed when in their Christmas hit, ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ they noted how:
…your granny always tells ya that the old ones are the best…
Maybe this has more to do with us as human beings and with our innate desire to clutch onto the past: not least, those years and experiences we associate with our youth. However, it is possible – through a combination of a loss of memory and seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses – we remember them as being much better and far more enjoyable than they ever were in reality. Likewise, we also seem to remember Christmases as being much simpler affairs, informed and shaped by Christmas films and in Britain in particular, a good old-fashioned traditional Victorian Christmas (Mr Dickens, you Sir are to blame…!!!).
It is more likely though that the memory of ‘Christmas Past’ is something of a myth: a ghost maybe that continues to haunt us with a memory of reality and truth that in many ways we try and erase from our minds. Bill Purdue, co-author of ‘The Making of the Modern Christmas’, suggests something similar:
The best Christmases are the ones of our childhood. They are never quite as good as they were then. We idealise.
But as Purdoe continues:
There has always been this conspicuous consumption aspect…
And so despite the annual mantra, that at least maybe something that we choose to forget.
Of course, Christmases past have always been – in their own way – as equally excessive as was noted in the late 18th century at least. In an editorial in what was the forerunner to The Times newspaper from 1787:
Let the larder be well stuffed with provisions. Let the cellar be well stored with liquors, and let there be plenty of fuel to make roaring fires – for Christmas is come… there should not only be enough to eat, and enough to drink, but also enough to give away.
It adds, as if to balance any calls for excess:
When the heart rejoices in the hour of conviviality, it should be remembered, that thousands are oppressed with grief.
And so what difference Christmas present from Christmases past? Possibly none whatsoever.
Maybe then Slade were far more insightful than many of us would ever give them credit for. Maybe then, instead of keeping one eye over our shoulder to look constantly behind us, we should instead:
Look to the future now, It’s only just begun…
It might not change Christmases future too much, but it might change a few of our ways.
‘The 12 Posts of Xmas’ are a series of posts that will be published between 1 December and 25 December 2008. From tales of woe through humour to mere rants, each post is based around a classic Christmas song – however tenuous that might be…!!!
Everything on this site by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. www.chris-allen.co.uk