I originally wrote this piece for my student newspaper, a couple of years ago (hence the outdated ad references) and I’m well aware that it’s inappropriately unseasonal. But it’s raining, and it’s freezing, and it’s nearly June. So the only possible alternative I can think of to stomping around in a permanent strop at the Universe is to pretend it’s Christmas…
Every year, around this time, the pangs of tinsel envy start setting in. I’m overcome with the burning desire to mull things that I don’t usually mull, the overwhelming urge to roast things on open fires. Aside from the whole Jesus thing, I’m full of the spirit of Christmas: fairy lights, food, booze, consumerism, snow…all things I can (in varying degrees) get on board with.
I don’t know why I have such warm and fuzzy associations with the holiday, given that it’s one I’ve never celebrated, but that doesn’t stop me from coming over all tingly when the lights go up. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a real Christmas to shatter the overblown Adland romanticism of yuletide ― I spent last 25th December in my PJs eating bagels and schmear, and watching ‘Come Dine With Me’ until my eyes bled. I didn’t cry at ‘The Notebook’, but the John Lewis Christmas ad makes me well up (mostly because of its great Smiths cover. But also, the childlike innocence beaming from that little boy’s bowl-haircut-topped mug).
Obviously the flipside of the sheer delicious, snow-dusted wintry scene, ginger-bread-house, nights-drawing-in-at-four, mulled-cider, german-market, twinkly-lightedness of the whole thing is what Binge Britain is best at ― going a bit overboard.
Anthropologist, Kate Fox spoke to the BBC recently about a set of studies suggesting that the behaviour we exhibit when drunk is dictated by cultural rules and norms, not by chemical reactions. Whilst alcohol does reduce inhibitions and slow reaction times, there’s nothing to link it specifically with violence or promiscuous behaviour. These drunken behaviours are only symptomatic in temperance cultures such as the UK, United States and Australia, where drinking carries a moral pressure. In integrated drinking cultures like France, Spain and Latin America, alcohol consumption is as morally neutral as drinking coffee and, despite higher alcohol consumption, cultural beliefs and expectations mean that people don’t exhibit these anti-social drinking behaviours.
This ingrained social problem, and all of the wider health- and crime-related implications that become particularly pertinent around the season of excess, however, pale in comparison with the horror of the Littlewood’s Christmas advert. In 41 soul-shrivelling seconds they manage to sweep aside all quaint, joyous, familial notions of Noël, casually booting Santa in the face as they laugh maniacally all the way to the bank. In the advert, the uglier lovechild of Catherine Tate and Beelzebub sticks her head between the curtains to the refrain “Who put an x-box under the tree?…my mother”, a lyric with so many layers of wrong, it makes me do a tiny vom in my mouth. Diligent wives and mothers buying domestic happiness with D&G watches and Macbook Pros- is this the true message of the season? Merry bloody Christmas, retail consumerism, you’ve pissed all over my dreams.