I have mixed feelings about Christmas. I am a total atheist, yet I believe we should celebrate it. Surely all cultures, Christian or otherwise, have a festival to help lighten the mood during the dark months. (I was one of the few who supported Birmingham city council's attempt to call their Christmas events 'Winterval' a few years back, as it didn't exclude anyone from joining in.)
Whilst I love spending Christmas with my immediate family (my extended family can fuck right off) I hate the build-up to the festivities with a passion. I did some Xmas shopping today, and the bastard who first coined the phrase 'goodwill to all men' obviously never tried to buy any presents in Argos on any Saturday in December. People barge you, push in, stop dead in front of you when you're marching forcefully, and people in my extended family, in-law or otherwise (outlaw?) steadfastly refuse to be easy to buy gifts for.
Also, I hate listening to the same old shite every Christmas. It's something the bands of the Midlands have a lot to answer for. Slade and Wizzard's Christmas records are good examples of their type, but after listening to them twelve thousand times every November and December they lose their Brummie charm. (My auntie Linda is part of the kids' choir on Wizzard's I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and it makes me feel guilty to criticise her only claim to fame. That's not true, actually. Her laugh is also famous, as it sounds like a seal with whooping cough.) Local radio doesn't help, either. I'm forced to listen to it at work, and it doesn't play the decent Christmas records until the day itself is really close, and so they force feed me Mariah Carey and Bon Jovi until I throw up.
Also, for the last few years, Birmingham has had a Frankfurt Christmas market invade the top of New St. We're twinned with Frankfurt, you see, and I wonder what we send them in return. Do we send them our market traders? Do the festive Frankfurt shoppers delight to our local wares, such as five lighters for a pound? West Bromwich Albion phone fascias? Factory second Cadbury mis-shapes? Special offers on cabbages, ladies? ( I don't know about market traders in other parts of the country, but in Brum, all our marketeers shout out all their special offers with the word 'ladies' at the end. It's sexist, and it makes me feel excluded, as I might actually want three aubergines for a pound.) It's also interesting that they put the Frankfurt market in New Street, and not by our other markets in the city centre, as that's where the statue is that commemorates those we lost in the Blitz. It's a shame as our German friends might be shamed into selling us their tat at a discounted rate. That said, the German market is varied and colourful, and adds a lot of spice to what is, frankly, a very dull street the rest of the time. I just wonder where do the Frankfurters go if they want to buy traditional German Christmas stuff like lebkuchen and stollen if all of their traders are over here?
Like most things, I blame my indifference to Christmas on my parents. My Dad would not let me and my brothers believe in Father Christmas. He said, and I'm paraphrasing; "I work fucking hard all year to pay for your presents, and I'm not letting some imaginary fat cunt from Lapland get all the glory!" He's got a point, but I reckon it took a little of the magic away from the festivities. Maybe living in Erdington also took some of the shine off!
Despite all of this, I want my family to have a great Christmas, and I also hope that you, my friends in blogland also have a great Chrimbo. I hope the 'imaginary fat cunt from Lapland' gets you exactly what you want, and if he doesn't, it's the thought that counts!