Saturday, 20 December 2014

Bah! Humbug!

I have never liked Christmas, even as a kid - according to my sister - I have always been indifferent.

She talks about family 'Christmas' parties (my father had two sisters and a brother plus their kids, my mother though an only child has a shed full of cousins) where the question was a Wallyesque 'Where's Peter?' the answer was usually I would be siting in another room reading or playing by myself.

Folk tell me Christmas is about family, fun, excess in all its forms ... oh and of course religion; via the high jacking of Saturnalia by the Roman Church and the suppression of Celtic winter traditions. This is just fine if you enjoy excess or are a committed Christian. I would guess the Saturnalian tradition of excess still has far more influence over the season than religion.

As a child of the late 1950's Scotland did not do 'Christmas'. Most weekday Christmas Day's saw my father working to at least mid-day. Christmas Dinner was usually at 5pm, then present opening, then bed: all very low key. As I got older Christmas Eve added the 'Watchnight Service' at our Parish Church where even as a ten year old I could not get my head around the relative wealth on show compared with the poverty of some of my friends at primary school who lived in 'single ends' in Edinburgh's Dalry and Gorgie areas. "Suffer little children ...." just how does that work? Sunday school was all about helping the poor Black African  'picininnies' in Malawi or Uganda while ignoring the acute poverty amongst children on our own doorstep. Maybe that was part of my problem with Christmas, being the one who always asked the 'stupid questions' that challenged the black and white version of the 'god' the Church of Scotland wanted to imprint on my mind.

At some point in the mid 60's Christmas Day became a 'bank holiday' in Scotland and the shift away from Ne'r Day to a more homogenous UK Christmas of increasing consumerism, all day television and the rest came about. The traditional two day Scottish New Year celebrations morphed into a week or more of Saturnalia with 'Christmas' starting in October as the commercial companies peddled their wares and Santa's Grotto was no longer confined to the two weeks before Christmas but slipped back to early November as the commercial world started on their 'Christmas shopping experience' via the ever more powerful modern media, to create even greater consumerism and profit for themselves. Television adverts in October were designed to 'pre-place' must have Christmas presents in peoples' (and worse in my view) their children's minds.

As a parent of the 80's and 90's I came under the pressure for the 'must have present' from my children whether it was a cabbage patch doll or the latest Lego kit to build your own JCB excavator. Some I gave in to some I did not but, apart from bicycles, my wife and I never spent more than £50 on their presents. It was fun sharing with the children and yet there was still this sense of disquiet when it came to myself.  'Family' Christmas with the rest of the family and still the question remained, 'Where's Peter?', as I sat reading quietly on my own.

So as this Christmas comes around, both children grown up, living in Japan and Ireland, with children of their own and me in the final stages of an amicable divorce, being on my own is not a problem and yet I am still no nearer understanding where my dismissive attitude towards this festive season comes from. I set out writing this to see if the process of writing would bring the reason's to light or at least an indication, after all with the shortest day tomorrow and the start of a solar new year upon us what better time is there?

I am no nearer discovering 'Why?'.

Maybe my view should be less 'Bah! Humbug!' and more 'Meh'.

For those who enjoy this season - have a good time. For folk like me - it is OK to feel this way and you are not abnormal.


  1. Why be so dismissive of Christmas? Well, why not? If one is not religious, does not have young children and is not a fan of consumerism, what reason is there to participate in the corny, tawdry rituals? Personally, I try to ignore it as much as possible, and at this time of year I am particularly glad that I do not have a television set.

    There's nothing wrong with "Bah! Humbug!"

  2. Each day starts with the sun apparently rising in the East, making its way over the sky and setting in the west. Any other beliefs about a day are inside your head and have been put there by other people, some of whom do not have your best interests at heart.
    I've done a deal with christmas. I don't bother it, and it dosen't bother me.

    Another day above ground, do your best with it as it won't come back after its gone.

  3. Always loathed it, Peter, and still do, Fine for the wee ones as long as it's not greed driven.

    My wife shall be at work and I shall be sipping a dram and reading a book in my Tokyo local.

    May next year see our re-independence struggle move a step nearer fruition!

    Slainte to you all and yours!!!!!!!!!

  4. Great to know other people do not find xmas a joy! Not a fan myself I find it a difficult time, when the kids were little we were so broke it was awful, when we spilt up it was even worse. it is a crazy build up to a quite boring day anyway. Haven't had tv for a few years thankfully, I am happy to print my engravings and eat toast. I feel sorry for all the birds people consume without a thought mostly about their welfare before slaughter. I was at a bus stop other day in Edinburgh and a nice woman tried to engage me in joyous conversation about xmas, she chose the wrong person and I felt bad saying I don't really do xmas and don't like it! Hogmanay is much more important. Thats when the tears will flow this year though, knowing we have been shafted as a country and who knows what damage the unionists will inflict in the near future, bah humbug, but Happy Solstice!

  5. Ps interesting to know you have a son in Japan, my son, 19, is almost fluent in Japanese, teaching himself and is a keen type designer, in Japanese, hope he can go there one day.