Christmas. It’s here. Again. With a crushing regularity that some would argue serves only to highlight time’s onward march towards an inevitably lonely death, the festive season is upon us once more. The more cynical readers have doubtlessly clocked that Christmas is a time when a lot of people can make a lot of money by making a lot of other people poorer and fatter; an unconventional tradition, I’m sure you will agree, but one that the Western world seems to have taken to with gusto. Noddy Holder will once again emerge from the Christmas period £800,000 richer for doing precisely nothing apart from continuing to bludgeon us around the ears with a song written 41 years ago (you’d never know, it’s aged very well), whilst the major supermarkets once again engage in their weird ritual dance in which they spend as many millions as possible in the pursuit of making their potential customers cry over an advert that has nothing to do with anything they sell.
While the thought of this relentless materialisation can be a depressing one, we are here to help – just consult our handy guide to anti-Christmas literature, perfect if you still need to pick up a last-minute gift for that Christmas-despising family member we all know and love. (And no, the irony has not escaped me that I’m encouraging you to rebel against the commodification of Christmas by… buying something.)
For the Grinch in your life, you really can do no better than David Sedaris’s Santaland Diaries. This collection of essays manages to encompass illegitimate Vietnamese children, prostitution, blackmail, and comparisons between children’s nativity plays and cancer – so definitely a good place to start if you’re looking for a grittier Christmas this year. The title essay is based on Sedaris’s experiences of working as an elf in Macy’s over the holidays, and brings to life in laugh-out-loud fashion the absolute absurdity of collective human behaviour at Christmas. I even managed to enjoy the essay despite the fact that I myself was recently rejected for a position as a Christmas elf at my local shopping outlet (no, really), meaning lines such as this one – “Even worse than applying is the very real possibility that I will not be hired, that I couldn’t even find work as an elf. That’s when you know you’re a failure” – carried an extra acerbic weight. Sedaris’s book will validate your feelings of arch knowingness as you observe the foolish materialism of others during the festive period, and that’s really all you want from a Christmas gift.
Next up, O. Henry’s classic The Gift of the Magi. Nothing says “Happy Holidays!” better than a poverty-stricken couple mutilating themselves and selling their most valuable possessions in order to partake in the capitalist gift-buying ceremony of the festive season. Merry Christmas.
Finally, for something sweetly different, there’s E.E.Cummings’s Santa Claus: A Morality. Rivalling Sedaris’s essay entitled “Dinah, the Christmas Whore” for shock factor, the play’s main protagonist is Death – perfect for combating the saccharine-yet-oh-so-problematic-in-its-suggestion-of-forced-marriage cuteness of the John Lewis advert this year. Like Sedaris’ bemused Macy’s elf, Cummings satirically mocks the deadening lack of individuality that becomes so apparent at Christmas time. Yet rather than being a totally depressing indictment of our unforgiveable blandness, the play becomes the unexpectedly lovely and truly cockle-warming story of Santa and his daughter. For something properly different yet still properly Christmassy, this has to be the winner – AND it’s available online absolutely free, meaning you don’t have to put a penny in Amazon’s pockets! On that truly happy thought, let me wish a very merry Christmas to one and all – enjoy your anti-festive reading – and to all a good night!