Christmas seems increasingly meaningless to me.
There, I said it …
Let me rephrase that: the meaning I derive from Christmas seems increasingly disconnected from that of the people around me.
I simply can’t get excited by the ever-increasing commercialism of the season: ‘Christmas Fayres’ where you have to pay entry fees to markets allowing you to buy cheap imported plastic tat that will end up in our oceans or landfills in weeks; Black Friday ‘sales’ deliberately set up to tempt you into overspending on stuff you had no intention of buying 48 hours earlier and where the bargains are often illusory; over-priced and over-cooked turkey dinners at all the places you’d usually enjoy eating in.
And don’t get me started on the almost obligatory Christmas jumpers – no, not even the Satanic ones …
On the subject of religion, nor can I claim any Christian higher ground, sadly, having lost my faith a number of years ago, so this post certainly isn’t about converting you. Even if worshipping a baby born in a manger does seem a million times better than worshipping Mammon.
In the UK, we seem to have open season on Christmas as soon as November 5th (Guy Fawkes’ night) passes. We put away our poppies for Remembrance Sunday, and get our tinsel out, it seems. The local shops in my town have been playing Christmas music for at least 5 weeks, I’d say. It makes me shop less, not more.
At school, the Christmas bandwagon incites children to become giddy, usually to coincide with their end-of-term assessments. They come in, I swear it, from 1st December, asking questions like ‘what DVD are we watching today?’ when the only present I have for them is a 45-minute written assignment. And that’s often after some other teacher has pumped them full of sweets and gone against Senior Leadership instructions to ‘keep it tight’ by caving and putting ‘Elf’ on!
So, in this resolutely non-celebratory Christmas post, would I admit to getting ANYTHING out of it?
Increasingly, it’s simply about some blessed time off work (even if you have to mark all those damn end-of-term assessments before you get back). Even then, I wonder if I would prefer one week off, and my second in the middle of the year when the weather is better and it doesn’t get dark before tea-time. Even if it was raining, and it usually is here, I could probably put it to much better outdoor use at Easter, or in June!
But two weeks IS good. It’s much needed, because Autumn terms tend to be long, and intense. In that fortnight you (or I) actually get a few days between winding down and preparing for the next onslaught – a few days of tranquility, which are what you get if you properly plan your marking and travelling (in my case to the South of England and to Wales).
Which leads me to this week’s quotation. Unusually, it’s from Shakespeare himself, although it is quoted in Susan Hill‘s wonderful ghost story The Woman In Black, itself set at Christmas (and not to be confused with the film, thanks very much).
Take it away, Marcellus …
Some say that ever, ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time. (Hamlet I,i)
Like Horatio, I do in part believe this: it can, at least for one day, be the season of peace, goodwill and that rarest of 21st Century commodities: tranquility.
Which is what I hope for you all at Christmas …