December 6, 2019

Merry Festivus – A plan for Christmas reform

I read an article this week about how Christmas was becoming obsolete. How the behaviour of our highest-ranking Catholic Cardinal, not to mention some of the members of the Royal family, had soured the spirituality and the dignity of Christmas. I get that. How Greta, the climate child, and the patent reality of rising sea levels and the cost of consumption had created shame and guilt around the kitsch and tinsel of it all. And I get all that, too.

But I really like Christmas. Or more accurately, I like Christmas time. Celebrating with family and then, simply pausing. The pausing of our busy lives to gather and celebrate. To walk on the beach and to breathe in everything that salty seasonal hot wind represents from a childhood of feasting and playing on and around December 25.

The rational agnostic in me recognises that despite the loss of faith in our institutions and leaders, that there is still something spiritually satisfying about celebrating, about belonging, and about giving.

Festival has been an important part of human history. Something, and we are not quite sure what it was but, something…made our ancients drag enormous stone monoliths from Wales to the middle of England before the wheel was invented and before the pyramids were constructed, so they could gather and celebrate…something.

There have been pagan festivals to the equinox and the solstice, then organised religion marked our year with fixed opportunities to be festive. There is something that is culturally transcendent about this social phenomenon. Our need to come together in physical space with common language and purpose is intrinsic – and amazing. Did I mention that I really like this time of year?

I feel a little bit ripped off that institutions ‘owned’ our festival of family and food and then corporations usurped it and now we’ve just gone along with that to a point where it all feels like work, and more people just seem like we should ‘skip’ it.

I want to reclaim everything that is awesome about Christmas time, and simply chuck what is not awesome – those things that are sullied and  plastic.

In line with other trends towards the raw and the organic, I think that starts with getting naked. Threw in the word ‘naked’ to make sure you were still with me on this, but what I mean is stripping Christmas right back to an ancient place where we simply celebrate, together.

Here is my 3 point plan:

#1 TIME FOR A RE-BRAND

Let’s call it Festivus, for a start. That way everyone can join in. Our villages nowadays, our communities, they are not made up of white Anglo-Saxon nominally Christian nuclear families, and so for us to celebrate together – we need to open up the platform so it doesn’t just mean one thing to one group. Whether the celebration is with decorating a tree, singing hymns about baby Jesus in church, lighting Hanukkah menorah, The Hare Krishna Juggernaut, volunteering at The Liberation Larder, or immersion in nature with a surf on the 25th of December – it’s all Festivus. The echo chambers of our own ‘like-us’ worlds rob us of the chance to celebrate together – so Festivus it is and we are simply celebrating … celebration.

#2 A NEW CURRENCY FOR GIVING

I’ve mentioned that the pressure and the plastic around giving have gone a long to way to tip the Festivus Spirit right up the spectrum towards apathy.

Yet is was Nat King Cole (and later David Bowie,) who told us that the greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love and be loved in return. Giving has become less about giving love, or tokens of our love, to one another, and much more about showing our love to Apple and Amazon.

So I reckon, we go back to the handmade and the thoughtful – whatever your individual currency for love is. If you are a writer, its words. If you make jam, it’s a jar of preserves. If you are a baker, its a batch of cookies with cinnamon, and if you are a full-time worker or run your own business, then your currency is time. Time to listen and share (and swim). It is, after all, the most wonderful TIME of the year.

#3 PARTY LIKE ITS 1999… 1999 BCE THAT IS

I’ve mentioned that the ancients knew how to party. Flowers in their hair, mead, wine, feasting, lots of hugging, music and dancing. Probably a bit of actual naked too and if that is what Festivus means to you, fantastic, you are probably in the right town.

There was no brutalisation of credit cards or the pressure of Instagram-worthy table settings. No pressure cooker and tension. Nope, just singing at the moon and hugging. Let’s party with what matters and get rid of the plastic and the fluff.

Happy Festivus to all and to all, good night x