I decided to revisit an old habit; my Bah Humbug Christmas Blog… but it’s ended up getting published a little later than I originally intended.
Trigger Warning: this piece contains observations, comments and details of incidents that some readers might find distressing.
My previous content always tended to be a combination of either, the past year in review, or another one of those trite New Year wish lists. The type which rarely ever comes to fruition, and mostly won’t change anything anyway, at least not in real terms. As I start to type this I’m wondering where it will end up going… other than in the bin!
Every year at this time of year, someone always asks me… “so, why don’t you like Christmas?” A question that is usually followed by a bombardment of “Grinch” retorts, in response to my continued “Bah Humbug” comments. But I’m OK with that, honestly, I am.
Sometimes somebody will go that extra yard and ask me “no, really, why?” I suppose that might be about them trying to understand my feelings. However, my initial answer of “because I don’t” is often ignored and never really enough for most people. It’s certainly not an answer that provides any substance that might dispel any of their preconceived ideas, about my displayed behaviour, or their view about how I should behave. To most I’m just weird and wrong, but I’m ok with that.
The people asking the questions generally stick to their assumptions that I am odd, strange, or possibly even disturbed in some way. I suppose the latter is possibly the nearest to the truth, and I’m ok with that one too.
Diversity of thought and opinion is not something that I have ever worried about. Indeed, I constantly advocate for that inclusion and acceptance in all discourse. Individuality is something that we should all value. And not just when our opinionated adversary decides to agree with you. This diversity of viewpoints is something that dovetails with my daily life, and has done for most of my life. Anyway, back to Christmas.
Thanks, in main to our now ingrained commercialism and consumerism in many people, especially at this time of year; it feels like I’m reminded earlier every year, about the reasons why I don’t like the hypocrisy of our ‘festive’ season. Sadly, every year, it feels as though another tranche of people have also finally lost any sight of what Christmas was once all about. Assuming they ever knew in the first place.
In shipping their mythical Santa Clause across the Atlantic in the 1850’s, along with all the associated commercial opportunities attached to this chubby old bloke with a white beard all dressed in red, American commercialism served to deliver a veritable consumer money pit for corporate entities. This financial coup has – almost entirely by itself – destroyed all the remaining quaint views about Father Christmas, or the so-called season of goodwill.
For me, Christmas was kind of OK when it was confined within the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ but now, it all begins in October for fuck sake. It runs constantly and loudly for hours each day; every hour of every day and night, right through until the 25th December. Then, on the 26th we’re bombarded with all the post-festive sales. And all because some clever Marketing Geeks want you to buy their festive tat. Or some other expensive – often out of reach – ‘designer’ product that you really don’t need… for you or for your demanding often spoiled brats.
Of course, the marketeers play on the latter, they know that children are immensely effective tools for prizing money out of parents. Regardless of whether those parents can afford to spend it, or not. But don’t worry if the cash is tight, there is always that option of 0% credit, or the suck-you-in and spit you out buy-now-pay-latter deals, which are also designed to help keep you spending the cash you don’t have… what could go wrong?
And now in 2022, perhaps even more than previous years, mostly thanks to the evident Cost of Living Crisis, more people will experience those feelings of anxiety and associated heightened negative emotions. The negative impacts of our consumerism will be even more poignant and painful for so many more people and their families.
A friend of mine, recently posting on her social-media platform summed up the reality for many…
When you’re posting that your boyfriend is refusing to get you a £700 bag, or a whole hoard of makeup, or your parents aren’t getting you that phone you want, just remember; there are kids and families out there who will wake up on Christmas Day without a bite to eat. No gas in the meter or presents under their imaginary tree. Other kids will be waking up in children’s homes, foster homes etc, wishing they were at home with their real families. Parents waking up without their children, people waking up without their parents, and others fighting serious illness. Instead of moaning what you’re NOT getting, be grateful for what you already have!
At this time of year, I am continually reminded about not just people’s (current) difficulties but also, so much of the trauma connected with every Christmas in their past. Those types of trauma that I have witnessed and been personally impacted by, on numerous occasions over the years.
So, this Christmas is not just about the issues and problems of today. It’s also about Christmas being a trigger, as it is every year and for so many people. A trigger which invokes recall about specific incidents, about feelings – both physical and psychological – and the possible reliving of those past events. Thoughts and emotions just as vivid in today’s mind’s eye, for many people, as they were when they originally happened. No, Christmas is not a happy day for many, it is a ‘trigger’ or a series of triggers. Not just for me but for many others too.
Looking back with the retrospection of an adult, benefiting from some significant psychological life-experience, I can now see that my dislike of Christmas probably began when I was a small child, although I didn’t know that back then.
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy Christmas at the time. Just like most small children during this ‘happy’ period, I always looked forward to the festivities, I enjoyed the food and the gifts. I wasn’t unhappy, and I was always grateful for all that I received. But the seasonal process was a little different in my family. For me the day and the season weren’t ‘normal’ – at least not the normal that most other people talked about. Christmas day was always a working day for my parents and most of my family, who all worked in the hospitality industry. But that didn’t make it horrible, it was just different. And for me, that was OK.
I feel that this ‘strange’ childhood and start in life was useful. It helped me to develop a positive viewpoint about work; a process that still needs to take place, even when most people are simply enjoying themselves… unproductively. It is especially true if you happen to be employed as someone who is tasked with serving or protecting others.
That vision was probably the foundation of my work ethic in my later adult working life. During in excess of five decades of full-time work, I have only ever been at home on ten Christmas days in those fifty plus years. And most of them were in the last ten years, due to my work requirements, but again I’m OK with that.
You see most of my working life has been about providing service for others, and many of those services don’t stop being required, or getting delivered, just because it happens to be Christmas. Indeed, at this time of the year, there can be far greater demand on those services.
Everybody wants (or used to want) the hospitality industry to do their bit and pull out all the stops at Christmas. Without those ‘enhanced’ levels of service during the festive period, many Christmas parties would probably have been very dull events.
Christmas is also one of the busiest times of the year for our emergency services. Nobody wants to be without them when they are needed, do they? But, regardless of any additional mostly alcohol fueled demand, around accidents and injuries, illness rarely arrives at a convenient or planned point in our lives. Where would we be without the security of knowing that our nurses, doctors, surgeons and the remainder of the NHS are always there when we need them, regardless of the holidays?
Additionally, this year, as a direct result of the ongoing public sector employment disputes, our armed forces are now obliged to fill many of the gaps left by industrial action. All these people are working at Christmas for us. They are providing much-needed critical services for the rest of us. To put it frankly, many of us would suffer without them and what they provide.
A large proportion of my working life has been about the delivery of the services mentioned above. Throughout that work, just like so many of my colleagues, I have often been required to deal with what can only be described as some of the worst people in our society. I have witnessed some of the saddest and most traumatic occurrences that individuals and their families will ever experience or endure. I have witnessed man’s (and women’s) cruelty to his/her fellow man / woman. I have seen the all too prominent lack of care and concern for anyone, other than the individual.
I have seen the aftermath of a man beating seven bells out of his wife, again. That man who arrived home in the early hours, so intoxicated that he could barely stand. The one who woke all the neighbours and cursed at his children, until they sobbed their hearts out. The man who thinks that spending all the family money, getting shit-faced during the ‘traditional’ all-day pre-Christmas binge session, is OK. Despite having done the exact same thing on the previous ‘Black Friday’ …and every other bloody Friday during that year.
I have collected broken body parts from the scene of a road collision on Christmas Eve. I have sat with elderly parents and consoled them, whilst telling them that their daughter – a qualified emergency nurse – would not be joining them for Christmas lunch. Due to her skidding off an icy road and receiving fatal injuries when she crashed her car… whilst she was travelling home from an arduous twelve-hour shift in A&E. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a large proportion of her shift was filled with fixing drunken potential wife-beaters (see above).
I have removed body parts from railway lines (and the front of trains), before taking witness statements from now shocked and distressed people. Those individuals who were previously happy and full of joy, awaiting arrival of the last train home… before seeing a fellow human give up on their life, unable to manage the pain and anguish in their life for another day longer.
I have shielded a child from being able to see what was left of his father, after he decided to put his mouth around the barrel of a shotgun and pull the trigger. I have consoled the young couple who have just realised this will be both the first and last for their new-born, after he was found unresponsive in his cot on Christmas morning.
And I could continue but I won’t. Over the years, especially at Christmas, I have seen both the good and the bad in humanity, But sadly, more often than not, the latter has been most prominent.
And I’m OK with all of this. Honestly I am. Despite it being sad, often traumatic, as well as being undoubtedly stressful, being in and around all this was my personal choice. That was what I signed up for and what I agreed to do, for the benefit of others. Adding to this list would only serve to reignite thoughts that I have thankfully and mostly left behind.
However, my experiences have left with a range of thoughts and expectations; about myself, about life, about our society and about the world that we live in, which differ immensely from those held by other people, without my lived experiences. I’m not looking for sympathy and don’t want any thanks. All I ask for is your acceptance of the fact… I Don’t Like Christmas and suspect I never will.
Note: past Christmas Blogs (Christmas Grump – 2009, Merry Humbug – 2010, Riverbank Humbug – 2011, Bah Humbug Again – 2012, Annual Humbug Messages – 2013, 2014, Remember others at Christmas – 2015, Another Humbug Message 2016 and New Year – New Change Opportunity – 2017) are still available… should you have the time, desire or inclination to read any of them.