Let me be frank: I like Christmas, though I must add that without children (which, for me is any young person up to and including the age of 23) Christmas isn't all that important. I was brought up by an English father and a German mother in an observing, though not overly strict, Roman Catholic household, and we always celebrated Christmas as the Germans (and many other northern Europeans do) on Christmas Eve. To this day - Christmas Eve, in fact - I would prefer to celebrate Christmas as we did when I was young, but almost all families take their lead from the female figurehead, and my wife is English (well, actually, Cornish and from Methodist stock to boot).
And although I don't regard myself in the slightest bit Christian, religious or denominational, though I do choose - choose being exactly the right word - to believe in God (but don't even think about trying to tease me out on that one, as such a belief is so intensely personal that it might make no sense whatsoever to anyone else and just lead to a colossal waste of time, much of it, no doubt, taken up with unwelcome proselitysing and none of it on my part) I do abhor how in Britain Christmas is all-too-often reduced to a booze and gift fest of the crassest kind. I know that contemporary wisdom insists that December 25 was chosen as the 'birthdate of the saviour' by the fledgling Christian churches (not 'churches', not church) to soak up the demotic 'pagan' celebration of the winter solstice, but that rather misses the point.
When we in the West celebrate Christmas, we are, whether knowingly or not and willingly or not, following a Christian tradition. So I feel we should, at least, do one of two things: either acknowledge the fact or drop the pretence completely. At the moment most of us do neither. We choose to pronounce 'goodwill to all men' and attend decide, in a cloud of boozy nostalgia, to attend a carol service, and then congratulate ourselves on how sensitive we are to the mood of the occasion. And that is that.
As a young RC lad growing up (and who thought he wanted to become a priest for a short year or two before he sprouted pubic hair and discovered girls) our family Christmas celebration more or less started after lunch on Christmas Eve when my older brother Ian and I were sent off to confession at our parish church, as much to get as out of the house for a few hours for our mother to prepare for the Christmas Eve jollitites as to prepare ourselves for taking communion at midnight mass. (A real catholic - sorry Catholic) would write Midnight Mass. I don't.) We arrived back home as it was growing dark after making our confessions (and in those purer, pre-pubescent days I was not yet obliged to think up a working euphemism for wanking as, dear reader, I did not yet wank - that came later) and were exiled upstairs to change into 'good clothes' until we were finally called downstairs for supper and then die Bescherung, which was heralded by the tinkling of a bell supposedly rung by das Christkind to summon us into the living rooms with its Christmas tree and presents.
A casual reader might assume I am trying to make fun of the whole occasion. Well, the casual reader should realise that he or she is quite, quite wrong. I loved it then, as a child, and I would love it now, as an adult attempting to create the same occasion for my children. At the end of the day, Christ this and Christ that, as far as I am concerned one meaning of Christmas is to try to demonstrate to our children just how much we love them. Yet ironically, because we love them so, so much we always fail to convey just how much - it is, children being children and not yet parents, a quite impossible task.
Writing this, I am fully aware that there are many - far, far too many - children out there who will not, tonight, experience the childish joy of Christmas, children who might, instead, experience an unremitting misery knowing that they are, for whatever reason, excluded from that joy. That they exist should not tempt us to deny the joy to others. But we should remind ourselves that they are out there. So as I publish this entry at almost the stroke of midnight (here in the UK, Greenwich Mean Time and all that, of course) I wish you all a happy Christmas, but also urge you to consider, if only for a moment of two, all those children, from the age of nothing to whatever, who are not able to celebrate a loving, warm and familiar Christmas and not to forget that most of us are a damn sight luckier than others. And to remember them not now, on Christmas Day, but every day for the rest of this year, and every day for the rest of your life.
Apart from that, God bless you all.