By Scott Manley Hadley
I ARRIVED HOME FROM WORK A FEW DAYS AGO to find that my girlfriend had secretly bought and decorated a Christmas tree. I had specifically requested she not do this because I fucking detest Christmas. From the Baby Jesus through to the Starbucks Red Cups, there is nothing about this time of year I enjoy.
People often ask when my hatred of the festive season began, and I struggle to answer. Although I don’t have joyful childhood memories of Christmas mornings, the fact that I have very few pre-pubic memories at all* means that this is no guarantee I’ve always felt the same. I definitely hated Christmas by the time I was fifteen. And over the decade following I’ve done everything I could to avoid a family-oriented Christmas Day – working in shit pubs, volunteering at a homeless shelter, throwing myself on the hospitality of people I barely knew, once (and the best Christmas of my life) getting pissed alone and watching three Pirates of the Caribbean movies – but none of these made me really enjoy myself as much as I felt I was supposed to. For over the last few years I’ve come to realise that it isn’t Christmas with my family I abhor, it’s the whole fucking thing. Which will probably come as a great comfort to my mother, if she’s reading.
Nowadays, I try to avoid Christmas. One of the many reasons why I’ve ostracised myself from most acquaintances is in order to not have to attend Christmas parties.** Elsewhere, I have resolutely lived in seasonally-undecorated spaces for years. This Winter, though, I am forced to confront the actuality of Christmas every time I walk up the stairs. My girlfriend has placed the tree in such a position that the living room door cannot be closed. Christmas is present, and Christmas is constant.
What I hate most about Christmas is its predictability. The same things happen every year, and one is expected to enjoy them. Shiny Christmas lights on streets, displays in shop windows… The familiarity of tinsel and baubles, the ubiquitousness of Christmas – every shop, every cafe, every pub, every bar… Some tenet of basic design, of pure aestheticism has been surrendered to allow the invasion of fir trees, acorns, giant snowflakes, mistletoe – which is a FUCKING PARASITE!!! – red-green colour schemes, pictures of fat men with beards,*** reindeer, all of this boring, cold crap. Coca Cola fucking everywhere. Prices of booze knocked down for “festive cheer” which is the last thing I need, I’m struggling to bring down my alcohol consumption enough without the omnipresent opportunity to buy more at a lower price.
Why doesn’t everyone buy themselves something nice, wrap it up and unwrap it, alone, with a nice crate of wine?
Parties, eating, drinking, dancing, gorging, flirting, twerking, whatever… All of the things society tells us we’re “not meant to do” it’s all of a sudden “fine to do”. And then there’s all of this bullshit “naughty or nice” stuff: Christmas is a time of year when one is expected, nay encouraged, to behave badly, yet at the same time told to think on ones past behaviour. Shame and sensuality, physical sensation and moral contemplation. These things do not go together.**** If you are good you will be rewarded… with material possessions, gluttony and condemnation-free cheating on your partner because it’s “the Office Christmas party” and he/she/it is “married too” and “it’s what happens”, yeah. Despicable.
I am a humbug. I am a scrooge. I hate giving gifts, but I hate receiving gifts more – it brings up the problem of working out how to react. If it’s a good gift it draws into focus the mediocrity of whatever gift I’ve bought, and if it’s not a good gift it’s disappointing and one must hide that. I am honest to a fault,***** and I find this kind of social posturing a waste of time. Why doesn’t everyone buy themselves something nice, wrap it up and unwrap it, alone, with a nice crate of wine? Six bottles of Prosecco for 25 quid, you say, Mr Tesco? That and Star Wars Episode 1-3 is literally the best Christmas Day I can imagine happening.
What else irritates me about Christmas? The expectation that everyone is “on board”. It is not possible, in this country at least, to truly escape it. Everyone mentions it. There are posters, adverts, groups of fucking carol singers everywhere I turn my head. Why do so many people want to join in with the same thing? How can anything be “special” to so many people at the same time? How can one enjoy something, feel it has a deep personal importance (as many people seem to do) yet see everyone else doing the same thing? If everyone is seeing their family, wearing stupid hats and eating giant North American chickens, that DEVALUES each experience. These experiences are so un-unique, so replicable, and they happen every single year in the SAME WAY. I have SEEN tinsel, I have DRUNK shit wine with people I work with, I have given gifts wrapped in patterned paper, I have seen a fucking fir tree inside a house… These things are not unique, are not exciting. Looking backwards, looking to the past, looking to tradition is dangerous. These things happen only because they have happened before. By all means have a celebration with the people you love, but do something original. And that’s it. The key tenet of my hatred. Christmas’ utter lack of originality. If the food wasn’t the same, if the trees weren’t the same, if the crackers weren’t the same, if the parties weren’t the same, if, if, if…
I want new experiences in my life. I don’t want a sad attempt at replicating something that may or may not have made me happy twenty years ago. Which is what Christmas is. Regressive, backwards-facing, future-denying, small-C conservatism. B. S. Johnson, the experimental left-wing novelist and a personal hero of mine, once said, “The ignorant are always for the status quo”, and this is so applicable to this Western Winter Festival. I’d like to see Christmas monkeys, clowns distributing cheese wheels, weeping willows brought inside, I don’t know… Something different. Something new. Because Christmas as it is I have seen before. So many times. And I really can’t be arsed to see it again, especially not every time I go near my fucking living room.
Oh, and Merry Christmas.
Scott Manley Hadley is a fun-hating bartender, postgraduate student and occasional rapper. For more of his life and opinions (usually about books) visit: triumphofthenow.wordpress.com or find him on Twitter @Scott_Hadley