Friday, 3 December 2010


I spent several years without Christmas, quite literally. In Japan Christmas Eve had been moulded by retailers and caterers into an alternative Valentine’s Day where young men are expected to feed their beloved overpriced meals. Kentucky Fried Chicken have craftily persuaded the rest of the population that a festive bargain bucket is very close to what we eat in the West. There is ‘Christmas Cake’; white sponge, synthetic cream and imported strawberries which at least has a festive colour scheme. Mind you to most Japanese ‘Christmas Cake’ refers to the cruel sexist maxim that like Christmas Cake, an unmarried Japanese girl becomes stale after the age of 24.  The day after this travesty all the tack tinsel and Santas are immediately pulled down in anticipation of the real event there: New Year. It is even a working day and that felt just downright wrong (my kind employers usually sent me home because I looked so glum).

Now these chaps look happy.

As a result of this perhaps, I love Christmas.  I hear the complaints about costs, commercialism and hassle. But really, it is only stressful if you allow it to be. And for most of us it is at least a much needed break after a tiring few months. I’m sympathetic of grinchiness if displayed by retail staff at Harrods or those who find themselves alone or lonely. Otherwise I just ignore the buzzing noise that is the yuletide whinger.
A Christmas Tree you can hang your hat on!
 Mind you I think Christmas is becoming fashionable again after a couple of decades where public indifference was the thing. But it is a very middle class recycled ecological home made kind of Christmas. I blame Jamie Oliver, Kirsty Allsopp and Hester Blumenthal and his 100 quid a pop Christmas puddings on ebay. It’s all crafty and earthy and dull and expensive.  Kind of a lets do the folklore thing but pay a fortune for it or to make it. That is unless you have a great big garden in Dulwich that has half a dozen holly bushes and a  Polish cleaner to come in and clear up all the crap afterwards. A kind of Harry Enfield ‘I saw you coming Christmas’. There is more joy in a Poundland glitter garland.

Oh no, please don't make me!
To be fair though, people should do what they want, not my place to dictate. Christmas is indeed  a delightfully moveable feast, apart from the fact that it is actually on the 25th.  I’m not a Christian and it is not surprising that therefore most of my pleasures are derived from its lively, boozy, convivial and to be frank licentious aspects. It is a good excuse for a party, and in its true pagan form that is what it is. A bit of a jolly up in the bleak midwinter. I am not saying I dislike the religious embellishments, I like some of them, all the glittery angels, fat men in red and hymns. In fact yuletide has not arrived for me until I have heard the mournful tones of the Salvation Army brass band playing ‘O Come all ye faithful’. The Sally Army are always my Christmas charity, and indeed my all year charity of choice. So it is not that I am not fond of traditional things…

A traditional thing..
It is just that I don’t think there is such a thing as a ‘vintage’ Christmas in spirit because in truth most aspects of Christmas are vintagey. No doubt you could make a good period 30’s, 40’s or 50’s themed  one. The latter would be best I suspect because it would include the requisite amount of tack. This for me is the problem with a tasteful Christmas and the vintage ‘retro’ Christmas being peddled by magazines and stores is pushing some kind of Notting Hillesque taste upon us ( a bit too noblesse oblige for my tastes). All this home made marzipan, real trees and hand stitched gifting is also a huge nuisance. So would a real period Christmas be. I would hate to be without working electric fairy lights (until recently the blasted things didn’t work), I prefer artificial trees and I love glitter, sparkles and silly songs.  I don’t want to play board games and charades in front of a fire. I want to drink Baileys in front of the fireplace of a local hostelry and watch Doctor Who on telly.  I also want to wham my pre-made M & S Christmas dinner in the oven and end up with no washing up.  Christmas tea consists of cheese, after dinner mints and more Baileys. and then more cheese.  The only thing I want to stuff over Christmas is myself. 

Vulgar but nice.
I also like office parties, secret santa (now that is a brave thing to admit to), Christmas quizzes, meeting my friends and eating mince pie flavoured brandy butter (I don’t really like the mince pies but what the hell). I like being nicer to people and I don’t mind Christmas shopping that much either, as long as it is not in Croydon and I can reward myself with a nice drink at the end of it, preferably  champagne. But that’s me and that is just the point. I don’t think if I tried to have a vintage Christmas it would work. This is because this time is such an accrual of things; people we have loved, things we always do, things we shouldn’t do but always do, novelty, new memories and sheer indulgence. It has always been a mash of old colliding with new which is why it is also such a good time for telling ghost stories.
The reality for most of us...thankfully!
To be frank, and you won’t find me apply this to many things I am much happier with whatever Christmas the 21st century throws at me than one anchored in the past.  I’d drop the Nigella Lawson family in favour of the Royle Family any day.  So lets buy the cheap Christmas crackers, the bottles of cava and open the box of cheese balls and look forward to a good Christmas. 

What do you think? do you hanker back to a Christmas past rather than a Christmas now? I would love to know.. 


Mim said...

My Christmas now is also Christmas past because I've bought lots of baubles over the years from odd places (eg ship in a bottle from SS Great Britain, Delft one from Keukenhof) and so each year brings back more memories. Slap 'em on the fake tree, plop the traditional (in our house) red panda glove puppet on top and Christmas is served. There's no way I'd get rid of any of that for the sake of what other people might think about my Christmas.

Penny Dreadful Vintage said...

I guess I just have the Christmas I like. Which means loads of food and booze, music, and time to read several trashy novels. If I have time I make decorations because it is fun, and I like a real tree because they smell good. But all my family are overseas so it is usually really quiet... which to be honest is perfectly ok with me. I love this time of year too, I think it makes us appreciate winter so much more.

Straight Talking Mama! said...

I love the lights, glitz and glitter, and just as importantly the pure indulgence of food & alcohol! We buy baubles from all over as Mim does so our Christmas tree is full of memories for us.

I also love Christmas movies, love love love em! We have loads stored up for December, all time favourite is It's a Wonderful Life, but one of our other favourites is Christmas Story.

As you can tell we love Christmas


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