Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Worst Days of Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! There’ll be screaming and yelling and everyone telling you “Fuck me, it’s November already?! Oh God, I haven’t done my card list, I’ve no clue what to get the in-laws, and is that bloody Pogues record on again? Give me strength.”

Well spotted: those aren't the correct lyrics, but they are an amalgam of what pretty much everyone I've spoken to recently has come out with. Christmas isn't one of those irritating jumpy holidays like Easter that falls on different dates every year, but it sure takes everyone by surprise. And it’s not always a pleasant surprise, much like your gift from the weirdo that drew your name in the office Secret Santa (“Aww, a comedy reindeer that poops chocolate-covered raisins? Lovely! I've always wanted to fake-eat faeces straight from a grinning cartoon animal’s bum-end!”) 

I've not been around forever but I like to think I've had a decent grab-bag of Christmases: good ones, naff ones, ones I’d rather forget, but by far the worst bit of Christmas is the run-up to the actual period. December 25th seems like a huge unconquerable beast leering at us from a distance, and you both know you’re going to have to fight it eventually. So what’s the worst bits of the Christmas lead-up? I've come up with a few of my own for you to enjoy; maybe while you’re writing out your Christmas card list because you just got your first one from a girl that wasn't in your department but you should probably send one back just to be polite and then you have to send one to the whole team or you look like a rude dick and then you AAAAAAAAARGH.


Every year it’s the same. The Pogues get voted “UK’s Favourite Christmas Song” once again, despite being more dysfunctional than the Osbournes, and the nation celebrates by playing it again and again and again. There are roughly twenty popular Christmas songs in heavy rotation, and you have to listen to them wherever you go. And God help you if you work in retail - you get sent a CD or tape from Head Office, and that tape goes live on Nov 1st and stays on, looping the same songs until Dec 25th. If you’re really unlucky that tape will contain less than an hour’s worth of songs, which means in the average working day you will hear the same set of songs nine or ten times!

You could argue that it’s not fair to single out Christmas songs for this behaviour. Most shops and radio stations normally play Hot 40 hits, so if you hate pop music while you shop, you’re screwed. But the problem with Christmas music is the greater lack of choice. Let me explain: think of twenty of this year’s biggest hits, right now. Now get your friend to do the same. I'm willing to bet that your lists differed quite a bit. Now both of you think of twenty Christmas songs: did you both get the same songs, more or less? Yeah you did, don’t even lie.

And the boring increases: top ten hits tend to be about love/sex or the absence of it, which is a hugely broad subject, whereas Christmas songs are about...er...Christmas. And they tend to come in a very limited selection of flavours:

Not included: Songs with Winter/Christmas-Themed Music Videos, X Factor Winners, Novelty Bollocks, Religious Standards
Not included: Songs with Winter/Christmas-Themed Music Videos, X Factor Winners, Novelty Bollocks, Religious Standards

And just like a really exclusive club, the Christmas song clique is hard to break into, so anything new or not in those three popular categories doesn't tend to get any airplay. So it’s the same old same old, year in, year out. Hurrah!


Christmas time is family time, and no, I'm not talking about that when I mean ‘obligations’ - I genuinely find family time a great thing about Christmas and don’t feel pressured to be all up in my family’s grille as of midnight December 24th.

What I mean by ‘obligations’ is this: the little things that are forced upon us at Christmas time. Since when did it become a prerequisite that you have to be cheery at Christmas, because it’s Christmas? Bah humbug. And please don’t tell me that you’re the kind of person who pressures others into going to church. By all means go if you want to go, but don’t guilt-trip people into participating in something that is no more a tradition to them than stuffing pickled eggs up your arse is to you. Nowadays people have different ideas about what Christmas means, so have a little festive tolerance.


If you want to go out shopping in December for anything non-Christmas related: pint of milk, pair of knickers, AA batteries, you can forget it. As soon as Halloween has been cleared from the shelves, gift sets and novelty items rule, and people are flocking into town to grab what they can. I work in the town centre and quite often have to pop into town to grab supplies or lunch, and it suddenly becomes a blood sport. Kids run everywhere like shin-seeking missiles, harried men clutch fluffy slippers, mothers tear each other’s faces off over the last Moshi Monster on the shelf.

I suppose I should be thankful that I live in an age where there really is something for everyone. In fact, there’s more than just one option, which makes shopping for that awkward friend or relative a little easier. Plus, what with online shopping, I only have to brave the High Street when I've forgotten tags or run out of paper. And if you really can’t find something for everyone, there’s always...


The delightful aforementioned chocolate-shitting reindeer is a prime example of this. Seasonal crap, the likes of which you are going to wear/eat/display for approximately half a day before your tolerance wanes to nothing, festoon the shelves at Christmas like never before. I don’t mean useful things like Christmas lights; I mean 100% flimsy plastic, singing, jiggling or otherwise gimmicky rubbish that you would never in your right mind give to anyone, were you not still desperately shopping at 4:45 on Christmas Eve. I hate having to feign delight and enjoyment when I unwrap something like this (and thankfully all of my best beloveds are thoughtful, so I haven’t had to do this for years). But every year I see the shelves of Jingle Bell Rock-singing chipmunks and I feel sorry for all of the poor people who will be forced to coo “Aww, so it sings every time you come near it? That’s not going to get annoying at all!”


I am a terrible yo-yo dieter. Don’t get me wrong, I'm not one of those people that’s always on the South Beach this or the 5:2 that, I mean I am always losing six pounds and then gaining eight. I now know exactly what to do to stop putting the weight on: stop eating whatever I like and start doing a little more exercise.

Christmastime is not the friend of exercise. But it is the friend of sausages wrapped in bacon, and stews, and chocolates in the break room, and lush German biscuits and gingerbread and whiskey and custard. It’s everywhere! And it’s all massive, American-sized portions, drenched in butter and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon! And then there’s the excuse: “It’s Christmas!” What the Hell, everyone. Because nobody tucks into a whole cheesecake washed down with a pint of cream, saying, “It’s Vernal Equinox!”

Saying “We’re going to have a trim Christmas” is like the captain of the Titanic putting down his binoculars and saying “We’re miles away, it’s just going to graze us.”

Tune in next time, where Wibs is visited by a familiar Seasonal spirit...

No comments: