It’s hard work, hating Christmas

Roast potatoes go in the Christmas “pro” column

I’ve spent the past couple of decades building up a hard shell of anti-Christmas sentiment. I’ve been through all the stages – the “it’s not really a Christian festival you know” cod-historical argument; the “it’s all just a corporate consumerist charade” teenage-Marxist righteousness; the “we shouldn’t need arbitrary holidays to need a reason to be nice to each other” cop-out of buying gifts.

I don’t know quite where it came from. I think partly it was a desire to be contrary: everyone else likes something, so I don’t. It’s why I pretended to hate Blur and Oasis and football and popularity when I was a teenager.

And there’s an awful trying-to-be-cool aspect about it as well, I think. Christmas is kitschy and camp and brightly coloured and unashamedly fun. Parents are involved. For a young man trying desperately and unsuccessfully to build up a worldly, sophisticated image, enthusiastic enjoyment of a festival involving multicoloured fairy lights, awful reindeer jumpers and Terry’s Chocolate Orange is a hard thing to admit.

Finally, I suppose, there’s the religious business. I’m an atheist. For a while I was a proper anti-theist, of the Richard Dawkins/Christopher Hitchens kind, furiously certain that all religion was a force for evil. So the King’s College carols, half-hearted retellings of the Nativity story, and dented cardboard advent calendars were all hated symbols of the enemy.

I’ve banged on about this stuff to my friends for so long that it’s almost by rote: I can trot out three verses of “Yule was originally the pagan winter solstice, coopted by Emperor Constantine to smooth his efforts to introduce Christianity to the Roman Empire” without drawing breath. So it’s difficult and embarrassing for me to admit: I really like Christmas.

More seasonal blog posts

Is this the campest 1970s Christmas Special ever?
This Christmas, spare a thought for Jesus Christ
Lie, and lie again: a parents’ guide to Christmas

I don’t know when it happened. You get older, and seeing your family becomes rarer, and something to be treasured rather than endured, and Christmas is the archetypal family time. You stop worrying, at some point, about looking cool, and start wanting to go to friendly pubs with nice beer rather than banging nightclubs staffed by people in fashionable haircuts, and Christmas is all about nice pubs. You come to realise that you actually need lots of pants and socks so you don’t get disappointed when you get them as a present.

Of course, the buildup to Christmas is still bleak: that grim period in early November when there are still Halloween cobwebs on the supermarket window, competing for space with the chintzy fake snow; the awful, awful trips around jostling, soulless high street superstores looking for a suitably inoffensive jumper for a hard-to-buy-for relative; the unavoidable jokey Christmas blog posts by thirty-something columnists short of something to write about.

But they’re all a price worth paying, I’ve decided, for that two- or three-hour period, after the turkey and bread sauce and roast potatoes, when everyone’s sitting quietly, stomachs groaning, playing a silly board game or reading or vaguely listening to a carol service or watching the Queen with the sound down and drinking a beer, and there’s a fire in the grate and your family around you and it’s dark outside and it’s raining and windy and cosy. That’s Christmas, the heart of it, and it’s wonderful.

More by Tom Chivers

Having Choudary on Today isn’t ‘free speech’. It’s trolling
Of course assisted suicide is a moral concern
Lie, and lie again: a parents’ guide to Christmas

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