So I am apparently the voice of pessimism at Christmas. It's been a long time since I ever really got into the season. Probably when I was 12 or 13. It no longer feels like a special time of year, and it doesn't help that I lack anybody to play cricket with. It's just not Christmas if you don't go outside in the afternoon, have a barbecue, and play some backyard cricket. Here, I don't even have a tree; I supposedly have a miniature tree for my coffee table somewhere, but I sure can't find it and I've looked high and low. Perhaps I should've made some crepe paper chains. Yesterday, I posted - a bit late - five Christmas cards. I've never sent so many in my life. It felt excessive. I'm sure that for some of you, though, sending out five cards would be a monumentally low figure. But my close friends and I have a standing rule that we don't give each other anything, going back to when Sam and I were 14; his birthday is three days before mine, so I gave him $20 and got the very same note back three days later. I am completely incompetent at buying presents anyway, and this lack of present-giving seems to extend to cards. I'm also completely incompetent at writing worthwhile messages in cards, so this is a great thing from my perspective. Unfortunately, certain family members feel a bit unloved if I don't send them anything. That said, two of the cards I sent to my Mum and Nan on the Gold Coast as a bit of a joke, to see if they beat me there. I'm flying up on Christmas Eve.
I must admit to being considerably amused by the predictable furore that eminates mainly from the US every year over "Merry Christmas" vs "Happy Holidays" and some supposed "War on Christmas" that Christians with a persecution complex have invented in their minds. You know, when you have an overwhelming statistical majority, over 80% of the population, then your cries of "persecution" just sound like you have no idea what genuine persecution is. I want some of these irritating fundie extremists to spend a month in Saudi Arabia just so they can experience a bit of real persecution firsthand. For the time being, I think this animated diagram is fitting:
I suppose some people enjoy storms in teacups. I, for the record, say "Merry Christmas" because that's the name of the bloody holiday. It has the religious significance of "Happy Australia Day". That said, I have grown up with Christmas being essentially devoid of religious significance or meaning. I remember when I first realised that "Christmas" referred to Jesus Christ; after all, it's pronounced more like "Chrissmas", so the connection was not immediately obvious even though I knew the spelling. In my childhood naivety, I thought the carols mentioning Jesus were sung just because it was one of the things that happened at that time of year, just like how Northern Hemisphere carols mention snow, and the day itself was simply a time of peacefulness, generosity, and family. I don't think I really realised it had any inherent religious significance until I was six and I learnt a couple of my cousins were going to church. I thought that was kind of odd because it wasn't a Sunday! Certainly in the social context within which I grew up, Christmas had evolved prior to my birth from a religious holiday into a secular and inclusive one. I just wish I still felt the magic that I remember it had when I was younger. Now I just grumble about having to find people presents when I don't know what the recipient would like and I haven't much money to buy anything good, or having to figure out what to write in a card, or having to hang out with family I don't like while eating food that doesn't appeal to me and listening to music that's stuck in a mundane timewarp.
Oh well. That's my Christmas whine and I'll say no more (except in response to any direct replies on the topic, of course). I am looking forward to going to the Gold Coast and seeing family I haven't seen for 6+ months. I'm really looking forward to my mother's delicious fruit mince pies. Alan also makes fantastic turkey; I normally don't like turkey as it's too frequently dry like cardboard, but his isn't. Perhaps I can convince him to do duck next year, though. I'm also kinda proud of how I found my mother a present she probably wouldn't expect at all; it's just a book but the fact I managed to find something without any prompting or assistance is truly remarkable. I'm the worst present-buyer you'll ever meet, I assure you of that. I walk into a bookshop (because books win as presents), gravitate towards the history, politics, and theology sections, and then stand there thinking "but nobody else in my family would like any of this! And I don't know where to find books they would like. Oh, I give up. But before I go, let's see if they have any Søren Kierkegaard or G. K. Chesterton here!" Ah well, at least this time around I had a good discount voucher, so I bought Mum's present and some books for myself, including Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy, both of which I have been meaning to acquire for bloody forever. At the moment, I am currently reading Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime And Punishment, and it is truly nothing short of brilliant. Dostoevsky thoroughly deserves the reputation he has. I cannot decide whether to proceed onto either one of my recent purchases or Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov once I am done. Perhaps I shall read something completely different instead, as a kind of interlude.
Well, this became much longer than I intended. I shall continue tomorrow, for the sake of brevity. Have a good longest/shortest day of the year, depending on where you live!