Andrew Wilkinson, History, Wadham
“Scrooge probably loved Christmas as a child”
Christmas gets worse year after year. It’s been over thirty-five years since Slade released ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’, and we’re still waiting for somebody to make a better Christmas song. Better than Slade! A bunch of long-haired glam rockers from the Black Country. A sad indictment. What’s more, when you were younger, you didn’t realise that those happy singalongs about Christmastime were by Cliff Richard. You didn’t know the pain then. You do now.
Christmas morning as a child, you excitedly unwrap all of the shiny things, which are great just because they’re shiny and they’re there and it’s Christmas. Now, you unwrap your four presents, realise that your friend left the price tag on and discover that they love you half as much as you do them. Objectively.
Christmas Day for many now means gritting your teeth through your Grandad’s sexist jokes, avoiding the gaze of that aunt whose car you threw up in when you were six, and forcing conversation about how well university is going, trying to hide the more salacious, specific reasons that you’re enjoying it.
When you were younger, none of this mattered. You had shiny things! And you spent your day throwing up in your aunt’s car, carefree.
Christmas is everywhere, for a quarter of a year. From Halloween onwards, everything from chocolates to insurance brokers adopt an Americanised, faux-cheerful ‘Christmassy’ cheese in their branding. I don’t want you to pretend my chocolate is made from the tears of reindeer, or buy a ‘Festive Loan’ with Ho Ho Ho-rrific levels of interest. Everywhere you turn, you’re slapped in the face with other peoples’ forced cheer. They’re all just compensating for the fact that they’re enjoying Christmas less these days, clearly. And mulled wine is horrible.
And then there’s Santa. That lovely magic man who brought you presents and joy when you were younger now just seems like a pathetic symbol of the consumer society we live in. Santa, you now realise, is Nike’s delivery man. He probably had a horrendous target to meet on Christmas Eve. He’s probably unionised. As you age, you realise your presents came, not from Lapland Elves and Will Ferrell, but from Chinese factory workers on less-than minimum wage.
So as you update your Facebook status on Christmas morning to an inane recognition of the date, and then hate yourself for doing so, remember this: Christmas is for the kids. Scrooge probably loved Christmas as a child. So enjoy your younger relatives’ glee on Christmas Day; remember how it felt; and try to hide the envy as best you can. Maybe buy yourself a shiny treat of your own.
Tom Gilligan, Philosophy and Theology, Worcester
“Christmas is a state of mind”
The idea that Christmas would become less fun or exciting as you grow up is a total revelation to me. It seems to suggest that as you get older things in you life get generally worse. This is not true. Contrary to popular belief, time is something you need not be afraid of, least of all at Christmas. I eagerly await the day when I’m wizened old man, telling my grandchildren outrageous stories of my ill spent youth and acting without any regard for the rules that govern the majority of society. Snoring my way through the ‘Doctor Who’ special after a good feed I see as an achievement; not something to be feared. I’m not quite wizened yet but Christmas is still lots of fun. Firstly I’m a student, which means Christmas starts ridiculously early so that everybody can cram in as much festive fun as possible before the term ends. Some would have you believe that this involved purely imbibing a criminally insane amount of free alcohol and mince pies. True but not the whole story. It also means fairy lights,secret Santa, trees, silly hats, Oxmas dinner and making paper streamers
Even though the majority of us know that “you know who” might not exist, it doesn’t mean the spirit of Christmas is dead. I know that if I didn’t get some walnuts and a tangerine at the bottom of my stocking, it just wouldn’t be Christmas. I look forward to the stomach ache that inevitably follows my festive over-consumption. Inside of us all there is our younger selves and Christmas is the time for us to embrace this. Even if all year round you are a pillar of maturity, sensible behaviour and moderation, the moment the first rendition of “Rudolf the red nosed reindeer” is stammeringly gasped out by a reception class, something within you will stir. Witness the way that parents seemingly go insane at Christmas time. They might lead you to believe that this is to provide the perfect Christmas for their “bundles of Joy” but in actual fact it’s the realisation that they can once again enjoy the whole fantastic world of Christmas, without accusations of immaturity. I don’t believe that any dad in that special red and white suit is having any less fun than his children.
Christmas is a state of mind. For good or for ill it has transcended a religious festival and evolved into something more. It’s a time when cheap and nasty is not scorned but welcomed with open arms. Plastic dancing Santas and houses attempting to create twenty four hour daylight are all just part of the fun of the season. We see in them our own ridiculous obsession with the season and we love it. While at any other time such things would cause me to stare in abject horror, at Christmas they are somehow okay. This is because deep down we all love Christmas for exactly the same reasons we did as children. It’s about presents, food, bright lights, shiny paper, broken toys, looking for batteries and most of all waiting up for hoof beats. Perhaps those who think that Christmas is no longer fun should take a long a hard look at the tacky shop windows and learn to laugh rather than scorn. If you can’t find Christmas fun, its nobody’s fault but your own.