Monday, November 28, 2011


It’s late November and already the days are infused with the pervasive exhilaration of “the Season”. It is impossible to take no notice of the swell of influence. It is standard commercial activity to play Christmas carols in shopping centres. It is no accident that this switch in white sound definitively took place precisely upon the expiry of the American Thanksgiving Day holiday. XM radio has an entire channel dedicated to Christmas carols (and oddly that station has for some reason temporarily replaced its “Forties on Four”, a collection of American standards from the 1940s). Last evening I received an invitation to a Hanukkah party, but it was weeks ago that I received two other invitations to similar Christmas house parties. It is nothing to encounter people talking about holidays and family gatherings. My mother has been wringing her hands for weeks about what she will get her granddaughters for Christmas presents (aside that is from the regular cheque which she pointedly mentioned was not indexed). Normal business commitments are being pushed aside until the expiry of the season’s social affairs. In short our mundane daily preoccupations are now overshadowed by this commercial/religious/family flashpoint.

It is popular to rage against the rising tide of Christmas themes, complaining that its advent is earlier and earlier every year. I have my doubts that this is true. Over fifty years ago, my sister and I frequently spent a cool day in July planning our Christmas activities and igloos for the upcoming December. I was not then alive to any particular background of commercial activity, but I suspect the fixation wasn’t reserved for a discrete week or so before the Big Day. This year the obsession with consumption is pumped by the recent downturn in the economy as retailers scramble to secure a hold on the limited discretionary capital. This focus is balanced by the now equally fashionable move to limit such expenditure and to limit debt obligation generally. Either way there is still the motivation to discuss the holiday season.

As hardened as one might wish to appear about all things Christmas, it is nonetheless virtually impossible to avoid its infection and persuasion. Like it or not, Christmas is still about matters spiritual, about the imagination, about childhood, about giving and generosity, about family. In a nutshell, Christmas is about hope and fantasy. My thoughts still come alive when I contemplate the effect of Christmas lights and wreaths, trite as they may be on one level. If nothing else, the holiday is an enforced retreat from our pressing worries. As my mother is won’t to say, “What’s not to like!”

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