Having said that, we should remember neither Scrooge nor The Grinch hated Christmas - they hated people. For me, my hate is directed at Christmas marketing starting in September, the endless argument about which songs should be eviscerated, whose invitation we accept and whose we turn down, have we spent more money on this person, or that…it drives me insane. Don’t even get me started on the saccharine B-movie puke-fest that is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’...Why do I always seem to get something in my eye when at the end they all help George Bailey? How does a cynical Scrooge like me survive Christmas?
It’s no secret my frustration with Christmas and the world in general boils over from time to time. I once published my thoughts on Facebook and as you can imagine, it created World War Three for a couple of days. But one comment on my post stuck with me: It simply said, “Who let Holden Caulfield out?” I wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or a dig - I didn’t know who Holden Caulfield was until Google gave me the answer. It turned out he is the feckless youth who wanders around New York one night in ‘Catcher In The Rye’. I’d never read it, I only knew of it in relation to conspiracy theories. So I risked going onto an FBI watchlist and I bought a copy. I soon recognised my own voice in Holden Caulfield’s - raging against the hypocrisy and evils of humanity.The comment, I discovered, was also intended to say that mine and Holden’s opinion is naive and simplistic. That the world is a complicated place and requires sophisticated nuanced solutions.
I didn’t agree then, and I don’t agree now. Christmas is an opportunity to fix the world - there are, of course, 364 other opportunities each year, but I digress. Humans are strange creatures who I think I’ll never fully understand, or even start to understand, for that matter. In a universe filled to the brim with astonishing beauty, splendour and power, from the intricacies of mathematics or a butterfly's wings, to the nebula known as ’The Pillars of Creation’ - with the wonder of it all, humans still managed to invent boredom. (Sentiment from the magnificent Terry Pratchett, who left the universe just a little more beautiful for the rest of us.)
One only needs to look at the news to see the problems humanity has created for itself. Sadly, the two children hiding under Death’s cloak in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ are still with us: Ignorance and Want. I don’t think the answers are at all complicated or nuanced: if someone is hungry, feed them. If someone needs shelter, protect them. If you are doing something you would not like done to yourself, stop it.
There are endless excuses: I’m struggling with my own bills, I don’t have time, they threw the first punch. Christmas is a time to forget all the excuses.
Everyone who reads this post, most likely, lives in one of the wealthiest countries the world has ever seen, at the pinnacle of technological, scientific and medical achievement. It’s not like serious problems don’t happen here, but when they do, we are protected from the worst consequences. When a loved one dies, it’s unspeakably cruel, and the pain is felt just as keenly here as anywhere else, but here one has the most advanced medical care available to ease the pain of dying, and those left behind can soothe themselves at the wake, supported and comforted, easing their emotional pain. Try doing that in a warzone.
This Christmas let’s agree to shut up about our problems, however painful they are to us, until there are no people starving in the world, or without clean water to drink, or without shelter, or living each moment in fear. Let’s enable a well to be sunk, or a mouth to be fed. Let’s make the universe more beautiful.
I’m as guilty as everyone else; I get wrapped up in my own problems, heartache and misfortune and I forget others. This Christmas, I’ll not forget what a Wonderful life I have.