It’s not that i dislike Christmas – in many ways, i love the festivities, the atmosphere, the mood and the sense of occasion and there are many, many Christmasses past that hold happy memories, it’s just that circumstances, combined with a subtly changing way in which i appreciate the world have conspired to alter my perception of the season.
Last year, when i wrote about how my idea of Christmas differed from the traditional expextation, it was obvious from comments and conversations i had as a result that i’d touched something of a raw nerve for others too. So it is, that i fully expect this Christmas to fall into the pattern that i’ve established for myself in the past few years: quiet, unfussy, unremarkable and solitary. It’s not as difficult to achieve as you might expect – there’s two office parties to survive, (both on the same night!), after which i’m very much left to my own devices. With a tiny circle of friends, family mostly far too distant to get in the way, and working over most of the holiday period, it should be a fairly simple matter to get the whole thing out of the way with little in the way of awkward moments.
That’s what i thought, anyway – cue a sudden and inexplicable desire to make something more of Christmas this year, coming out of the blue from nowhere! Suddenly, without warning, i found myself wanting to be festive, to the extent that was seriously considering making the effort to buy a tree and decorations, deck the halls and even record a few seasonal songs to set the mood. Certainly, it wouldn’t be a social Christmas, but in my mind’s eye i had visions of a cosy, tinsel-strewn, pine-and-cinnamon fragranced occasion, where i could indulge myself in all those things that Christmas should be – wherever it’s been, for a good number of years, suddenly i’d rediscovered my Christmas spirit!
It lasted all of 20 minutes.
On a mission, i hit the road, which turned out to be clogged, bumper-to-bumper, with impatient, angry and irritable drivers: drivers for whom common courtesy was an unknown concept – as indeed were the generally accepted rules of the road. Nevertheless, i stuck with it and clung to my festive mood, right up until reaching my destination.
Not only was the world and his wife out shopping, but they’d brought their obnoxious kids with them too. And, as i patrolled the aisles of garish and tacky cards, festooned with tinsel and fake holly wreaths, my ears assailed by the pre-pubescent wailings of Aled Jones’ massacre of Walking in the Air, my seasonal cheer evaporated like the last waterhole in an African drought. Brow creased and a bitter frown on my face, i left, completely unadorned with Christmas fripperies and fought my way homewards through the rolling maul of heaving traffic.
Will i never learn?
Torn between the nascent stirrings of seasonal cheer and the grim realities of the Advent scrum, i did what any sensible person would and sought an escape from the pressures of reality by logging in to sl. This, it turns out, was a very good idea… half an hour wandering around a good few sims, all arrayed in their holiday finery provided the perfect balance to the festering and jaundiced Christmas mess that had so offended me in rl. That’s not to say the festive season in sl isn’t a great big commercial sales pitch – just as in the real world – but it’s nowhere near as in your face, crowded, overpowering and downright awful as the god-forsaken experience that rl peddles. Christmas in sl may well be sugar-sweet and sachharine, all snowflakes and candy canes, but it’s a damn sight closer to the cosy – and, no doubt, completely unrealistic – picture that i prefer to imagine it being.
i’m not talking here about ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, or extolling the merits of ‘the reason for the season’, or anything like that – that’s a different debate entirely. What i am getting at is the slushy, sentimental type of Christmas ambience that you see on greetings cards and in period dramas. Possibly, it never really existed, but i like to think that it did… and, in fact, in the virtual sense, it does. Here again is something that sl can manage to do so much better than real life itself.
My real world space is still bereft of decorations and festive cheer as i write these words, but i’ve made up for it by decorating my inworld patch with all the seasonal trappings… a fresh fall of snow, frost-encrusted fir trees glittering with fairy lights and all those essentials that make a real Christmas – some may think it’s over the top, but what the hell… i like it.
Is this how post-post modernists rebel against a culture that distorts festivals and celebrations beyond what is reasonable and sane? Do we eschew the unrelenting pressure to conform and instead look within ourselves to discover what matters to ourselves, and then seek it out in the most unlikely places?
Maybe, or maybe not – whatever the case, i’m grateful that there is still a place where i can find that elusive quality that i’m looking for, even if it is only virtual.
I really like Christmas
It’s sentimental, I know,
but I just really like it
Tim Minchin – White Wine In The Sun