OPINION // The New Christmas
As we approach the year’s end, it has to be asked: why do we still celebrate a holiday which has no meaning for most of us?
Growing up, Christmas in our household was about two things: presents, and pretending we were Christian. Our North Island Nana would stay with us in Dunedin and if her visit fell over a Sunday we had to trot down to the local church Sunday school and pretend we were regular attendees while our parents discussed the fact that many of our best friends came from this very room, as did the macaroni sculptures and masks made out of coloured feather and playdough that littered out bedrooms and we convincingly took part in this charade on the promise of extra gifts and sugared treats. I’m sure I’m not the only child who partook in a joint lie in exchange for gifts in order to make the Christmas experience less painful, but moreover: why do we partake in Christmas at all?
Love, Actually. Or more specifically every piece of popular culture that combines to perpetuate a magical, Yule Tide experience littered with fireside celebrations, gift giving and you know, cheer!
For the happy endings, we turn to the aforementioned. Hugh Grant as a Prime Minister, Colin Firth as a struggling writer, Bill Nighy as an aging rock star and Emma Thompson as a stay-at-home mum. Not only is the cast a combination of the most loveable English actors alive, they’re being loveable with each other in appropriately unrealistic professional capacities and otherwise! Why can’t Colin Firth send me a Christmas present? Because he’s too busy learning Spanish so he can woo his new girlfriend in her native tongue? Oh I see. Hollywood reserves the extremely uplifting for year’s end cinema escapism, and – as long as the casting’s there – we love it.
Which brings me to the magical nature of Christmas. If Harry Potter and Twilight proved anything, it’s that we universally love things that aren’t true. And because a jolly fat man in a red suit delivering presents to everyone in the world in one night via a series of glow-in-the-dark pets is almost as unbelievable as Daniel Radcliffe performing magic, we love movies where Santa Claus is front and centre. Miracle on 34th Street. The Santa Claus? It stars Tim ‘The Tool Man Allen’ and it has still been so popular we’re up to the fifth installment.
Santa Claus would be nothing without presents. Reindeers UPS is apparently hiring an additional 55, 000 deer seasonal workers to manage the 120 million packages it will deliver for Christmas IN THE U.S ALONE. One could argue that if this kind of employment occurs across all Christmas-related industries Christmas is, in fact, financially beneficial to those suffering most from the global financial crisis. However, those same people are also pressured to decorate their houses, buy their son some form of entertainment system, their daughter a pony and their extended relations a gift voucher of some description that they didn’t need and probably won’t redeem. I love Macauley Culkin (more now than ever) but would he have had to adopt such an aggressive, vengeful stance towards intruders had he not been protecting a mountain of unwrapped delights?
Ultimately, as we get older and celebrate Christmas in more diverse ways, usually involving a lot more alcohol than food and a lot more friends than family, Christmas is a conglomeration of mutual time off, extreme weather – regardless of hemisphere – that affects ones ability to do certain things – and the end of the year. This triptych of pleasantries trumps any gift in my book, and maybe – putting aside the absolute cynic in me for one sentence – it is just a little magical.
- Courtney Sanders