Do You Hear What I Hear?

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Christmas music is a joyous experience.

It’s pretty much the only time of year which comes with it’s own soundtrack. Oh sure, tracks like the Fresh Prince hit us and get us equipped for the summertime, but that’s a fairly long period (meteorological speaking – in Britain the actual summer lasts approximately three days, all while you’re at work).

But Christmas music, because you can’t listen to it all year round, does retain some of the magic of childhood. The excitement of putting the tree up, writing the list and general wonder that the season brings are all brought back with the songs of childhood Christmases past.

Although this idealised sense of wonder and nostalgia is starting to be crushed by the horrible underbelly of reality. Now That’s What I Call Christmas is starting to look very different in a post-Yewtree world. And that’s after the fact that this is the time of year where it’s widely accepted and encouraged to share the story of a member of the clergy breaking into children’s rooms to leave them gifts.

We’re no longer having Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas as Gary Glitter remains otherwise engaged. Baby It’s Cold Outside feels a bit too sinister – “say what’s in this drink?”. All we need now is for Great Uncle Bulgaria to have fondled Orinoco to get himself a Wombling Merry Christmas, and our childhood is over.

I can’t remember the last time we had a decent Christmassy number 1. Now all we get at Christmas is a warbly rendition of an older song on the John Lewis ad, or this year’s X Factor winner, with their tearful claims that “It’s always been my dream and when my aunt’s neighbours chiropodists cat died I swore I’d make it happen. So this is for you, Tibbles”.

Except Rage Against the Machine. Rage Against the Machine fucking rock.

Christmas Food for Thought

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Christmas comes but once a year. However there’s been a concerted effort to make that one coming last as long as possible. It’s very much the Sting of holidays.

One of my friends has her birthday on 9th September, comfortably just following the end of summer. But every year the Co-op celebrate this day with the addition of mince pies to their shelves. There’s literally an entire season to go before Christmas, so this is a massive “fuck you” to Autumn. The leafy bastard. With the additional insult that any mince pies bought then don’t actually have the shelf life to reach until Christmas itself.

As it’s the 1st of December today, part of me feels lost that I don’t have an advent calender this year. I think I might be getting to old for them. I worry that starting my day on pure chocolate is more likely to make me diabetic than festive. So it’s not for me (he says, quite happily tucking into a pile of Krave so large it takes a step-ladder to start).

In fact last year I had the thought, (only for a second!), but the thought that maybe I could melt the chocolate down and hold a fondue dinner party. I’ve not trusted myself with one since.

Ahh Christmas food. Some of it is healthy, mind. My cranberry consumption increases 1406% each December. And sprouts. I eat some of them too. Begrudgingly. But for the most part it’s not a good season to be a waistband.

The chocolate. The cakes. The mince pies. The addition of cinnamon to ANYTHING. All are vital parts of the Christmas experience.

Then of course there’s Christmas dinner, which is fast becoming less an indulgent meal, and more a farmyard genocide of meats. Will you cook a gammon joint, or beef? Or both? Then the five-bird roast, upping the traditional menage a trois of poultry that is the three bird roast with the addition of goose and guinea fowl.

Normally if tell people you’re giving them sausages as a side for their roast and they’ll look at you like you’re mad, but with the simple addition of bacon they become piggys in blankets and have the magical power to transform and dinner into pure happiness. Pure artery-clogging happiness.

No Christmas meal is complete without crackers. To non-Brits Christmas crackers seem like an odd ritual, but the Christmas cracker remind us of being together as a family. That’s why they’re full of shit, have poor jokes and are likely to snap.

Then there’s the post-meal food coma. That dangerous time where you’re full, sleepy and could drop off at any moment, leading to a reduced sense of control for any sprout-related gaseous expulsions. Or as my dad calls such odours, Frank’s Incense.

Which is weird because his name’s Neil.

The Most Advert-full Time of the Year

Christmas Hordes
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The annual John Lewis advert is here. As ever it hits you right in the feels. Unless you’re a cold-hearted cynic. Or just view it as a piece of marketing by cold-hearted cynics, designed to sell you TVs, furniture and soft cushions (bloody cushions).

I remember as a kid liking TV adverts. I still get a slight excitement when I hear “holidays are coming”. And the child-labour espousing evil of Geoffrey the Giraffe on the Toys R Us ad flew over my head to instead be a source of joy. In fact the reflexes of a thousand Christmases take over when you hand me an Argos catalogue.

But this was all when I was a kid. Now I’m a grown up (supposedly), and realise these aren’t insights into a magical world. They attempts to associate a time of year with a sugary drink and consumerism – diabetes be damned!

We’re grown ups. Why are we sat in anticipation waiting for something designed to flog us crap we don’t need, all by connecting their brand to an idea. A feeling. That everything will be alright if I buy more things.

And the latest ad for John Lewis is the worst. I like the idea of an emotive appeal to get older people involved in Christmas. Last year around half a million older people spent Christmas alone. That’s heartbreaking. But has fuck all to do with buying new cookware.

If this ad was asking me to donate my money to Age UK instead of buying a new tablet computer, then fair enough. If it wanted me to donate food for a group lunch so that old people don’t have to be alone, then I’m all for it. Hell, even if John Lewis were donating all their profits for the December period to show that it’s not about the money, then it’s probably OK. But it’s not. It wants me to buy more, and maybe, maybe, give some of it to an old person. Because old people need things too.

Even if we take it as a given that it’s a cash-grab by the company, they could at least get the narrative of the thing right. They want to help this poor, lonely man to feel loved and part of Christmas. Do they bring him into their home and feed him as one of the family? Or do they realise he can’t come to them, so they bring Christmas to him? Or, inspired by The Martian, do they come together to stage a valiant rescue attempt for this poor, stranded soul?

Do they fuck.

They send him a telescope.

“Here Grandad, watch all of us have fun, but you can’t come here because you’re old and smell of stale cabbage. Plus you might die and really ruin everyone’s enjoyment of the listening to a whiny rendition of the Royle Family theme tune on our new surround sound system from John Lewis.”

They might as well send him a brand new photo album, filled with all pictures of the fun and joy they had on their magical day, with a note saying “Maybe next year, eh old man?”

P.S. Really? Using an Oasis song for a Christmas ad? Well, I guess nothing sums up Christmas like thinking your brother is a dick.