Bah humbug Scrooge haha”
My sister messaged me this kind note after I showed zero enthusiasm for the Christmas season last week. I didn’t hide my feeling of ignominious withdrawal. I was hurt. When people use the Scrooge line, its intentions are usually pure and sarcastic enough to be ignored. Not for me.
Calling someone a Scrooge implies a miserable Victorian skinflint with a cold heart. You don’t like Christmas? Well, you must be a heartless monster who hates the poor. The implications of saying ‘Bah humbug’ to someone are scarcely realised as a genuine insult. Because the spirit of Christmas is supposedly universal, any swerve from the rule is met with a cynical jibe — it’s as if someone can’t dislike Christmas; a law authorising fierce opposition to this assumed crime against joy, lights, and sodding mince pies.
Christmases are entirely personal. Every single person has a different experience with the three days of celebration. And as such, people don’t always have good Christmases. Some are unfortunate to not have Christmas at all. I don’t like Christmas because it’s a time of memory, typically bad ones. Thoughts sidle and steer towards the deceased and depressed. Family gatherings turn into grudge matches — one more Baileys and ice and your nan transforms into a spiteful harridan. Me and my sister had great Christmases until adolescence. Suddenly, we were visiting parents in hospital on Christmas Day, spending the day feeling lost without family members. Our futures were uncertain, our pasts like clamps round our ankles. This experience is likely to be widely felt — but we’re suddenly met by Dickens if we express our feelings of despondency.
Every Christmas is different. If you’ve ever spent the build-up to the holidays at university, you’ll know that students love to explain their 25th of December timetables. One person has Bucks Fizz in the shower, the other gets pissed on Boxing Day. You quickly learn that your own personal experience pales in comparison to the merry mulch your peers describe. It’s a competition to build the best gingerbread house, when you know your bricks and mortar won’t hold a roof up. All the descriptions are intricate and individual — that’s just life. So why should there be an informal policing of festive experience, if we’re all naturally different?
This goes to the heart of my anti-Christmas sentiment. It’s so forced. We work ourselves up to splash into a giant pool of tinsel, turkey, and testing family conversations. And people still possess the spirit to enjoy the season every year, without fail or fallout. Scrooge I am not, but nor am I a happy elf prancing down the High Street. We listen to the same twenty songs over and over again until the sound is meaningless background noise. Seriously, you go into any shop in the lead-up to Christmas and you’ll not hear any music playing — it is though, it’s there jingling in the background while you awkwardly shuffle past sweaty shoppers to get to Greggs.
Maybe the true meaning of Christmas is tolerance and goodwill toward Men. Or it could be the capitalist explosion associated with gifting.
But perhaps, if we step back, it should be possible to hold our immediate judgements of those who are tamed by traumatic memories of Christmases past. Equally, those like me who profess a disdain for December cheer should recognise why people like the celebration. Mutual understanding, respect, tolerance of opinions and experiences. Sounds like a wonderful idea.