"Once you hit twelve, Christmas loses the magic and gloss it had when you were a nipper: the thrill of a lumpy stocking on the landing, the prodding and guessing of its contents in the dark, the presents under the tree you decorated on Christmas Eve while the carols were playing, the crackers and mirth over turkey and Christmas pudd, the party games in the afternoon with granny and grandpa, Auntie Nellie et al.
You watch your cool school contemporaries who've grown out of it. Christmas is for kids, they sneer, and the message seeps through your semi-permeable membrane, which you've been hearing so much about in biology. Before long, you daren't own up to the soft spot you still harbour for all that festive glow unless it relates in some way to your romantic life. ‘He asked me out on Christmas Day,’ you swoon to your friends, immediately sensing a new use for Christmas.
But as a rule, the more hip you are, the less you're into Christmas. You detest all the commercialism, the spend-spend-spend, don't you? All that, What-should-I-buy-for-Auntie-Marj-and-Uncle-Tom-Cobley nonsense? Who was the DJ who used to say boot Christmas back into December? That's you, isn't it? You'd like to boot it out of the year altogether, given half the chance. Failing that, you'd love to go on that holiday or retreat until it's all over. You admire the way your friends come right out and say they don't do Christmas cards or presents. You like the idea of opening cards from Oxfam where a goat has been bought in your name for a family in Africa, or a pile of books, or a hundred school dinners.
Only the people with kids can get away with a second childhood where Crimbo is concerned. ‘I enjoy seeing little Johnny's face when he's opening his pressies,’ is their excuse. Yeah right, you say if you're inclined in the hip direction. ‘I believe you, thousands wouldn't,’ is what you say if you're in any way challenged in the hip department.
The silly season is just what is says on the sweet tin, isn't it? Silly, uncouth and uncool. All that blowing of feather-ticklers, all that snogging under the mistletoe. Not to mention those ridiculous jumpers with reindeers on them, hand-knitted by some well-meaning relative with too much time on her hands.
No, the winter solstice is where it's at: the marking of the shortest day of the year with the odd candle or two before the Sun's rebirth (as distinct from the Son's birth); the exchange of home-made cards where the C word has been omitted and replaced with Solstice or Yule. ‘I don't celebrate Christmas,’ your Pagan friends say, and you agree with them in principle, envying the way they shrug it off so effortlessly. The midwinter festival is Pagan anyway, you know that, the Christians just gatecrashed it. What have Christmas trees got to do with the baby Jesus anyhow?
Reconciled, you can at last enjoy Christmas with a semi-clear conscience. If this is you, you'll look forward to Christmas with a vengeance. Bring on the Christmas tree lights, the tinsel, the carols, the cribs, Slade, the giving and getting of presents, the mince pies, the old films, the silly party games, the whole caboodle. And you'll feel as saggy as the decorations and as deflated as the balloons by the twenty-seventh...."
Merry festivities everyone!