Media Matter Nick Thomas
you'll have to forgive me if I get this slightly wrong, because I'm quoting from memory, there being no Tom Lehrer recording or songbook close enough for me to consult and still make my deadline: "Christmas time is here by golly/ Disapproval would be folly] Deck the halls with hunks of !lolly,/ Fill the cup and don't say when] Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens,/ Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens./ Even though the prospect sickens/ Brother, here we go again."
That song is perhaps 40 years old, but nothing has changed. Our American cousins have always outdone us at both the cloying sentiment and the commercialisation associated with Christmas, the latter being the exploitation of the former, and Lehrefs satire was, as always, right on the money. And yet, looking back on the recent festivities, I feel a figurative complement to the literal, physical effects of all the feasting; I've had too much cynicism.
It's the same every year. Open any bnadsheet on any day in December, and chances are you'll find in there somewhere either a feature offering useful tips on how to survive the holiday, or a jaundiced humour piece pouring cold water on the whole exercise. The underlying assumptions are the same. You are going to exhaust yourself with all the shopping in overcrowded department stores; you'll drive yoursef mad trying to come up with original ideas for presents; you're going to have to be cheerful in the company of relatives and acquaintances you can't stand; at least one of your children or, worse, someone else's, will ru-ow a screaming tantrum on Christmas Day; you're going to have violent indigestion and at least one severe hangover. In short, the entire Christmas and New Year season is something to be dreaded, survived with gritted teeth, and forgotten about as quickly as possible. ,'m as guilty as anyone. I was at it in the Times last wok, and even in this column I tend to moan about advertising and the quality of the seasonal TV schedules.
The trouble is that there seems to be a demand for this sort of copy, because so many people look forward to Christmas in exactly that way, and need an antidote to all the sickly-sweet Christmas jingles nd picures of cute wide-eyed kiddies with which theyire bombarded for a month. Also, if you're commissioned to write a humour piece, 800 words on the saced mystery of Christ's birth and the joy of its celebration isn't going to go down too well.
But I've had enough. There are still geople vho get Christmas right, people who don't buy a ht of staff they don't need, or go to parties with a leader heart, out of social duty alone. They don't overdo it (a the food and drink, they do not depend on television'or thei entertainment, and they look forWard to sending a few happy hours with people they truly love,vhethe or not they acknowledge the fact that that by honours and derives from Christ. And in the column of out newspapers throughout December, these pople hive no voice. All they get from the hacks is a defeningchorus of "Bah! Humbug!", and it must make thm sick They might even be saddened to reflect tha there are so many unhappy, grumpy people in our pofession, and pray for our withered souls.
Now I've always detested the notice of the New Year's resolution, believing that a comminent induced by a day in the calendar is not a resolutiaat all, and an open invitation to the sour pang of failue. But' have set myself a challenge. If I have to wre something funny about Christmas this year, I shall to very lard to come up with a way of celebrating its tre spiritat the same time. And if I'm really lucky thre might be something on TV that I can be nice abou as well.