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What is it about Christmas?

With Christmas over for another year, Felicity King wonders what it is that makes it such a success.

So Christmas has come and gone again, and with my purse a lot lighter and myself probably a lot heavier, I find myself asking why, as a nation, we are so obsessed with this particular time of year. America, of course, is too full up after Thanksgiving to appreciate it completely. In France, tradition sees you leaving a pair of shoes out for Santa instead of a stocking, so their lack of enthusiasm seems understandable – for who is going to get excited about the kind of presents that would fit in a shoe? While these countries are the mature, respectable fans of Christmas, standing near the back of the crowd, we are the crazy fans who queue up from August onwards to ensure we’re right at the front, bringing the massive WE LOVE CHRISTMAS banner and a whole host of festive songs. We are mad about Christmas. But why?

My Christmas was, as usual, brilliant, but as I sat amongst a hurricane of flying wrapping paper, feeling far too full to ever eat again, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I’d been through this all before. And that is when I realised, I have been through this all before. I do the same thing every single year. Every Christmas is the same. And that is the key to its success.

Now, Christmas is a season obsessed with tradition – tradition basically meaning ‘let’s do the same thing we did last year because nobody died then so it couldn’t have been that bad, and none of us can be bothered to change anything’. Much of the time tradition is a bane to us youthful beings who desire change so desperately, but Christmas is a nice tradition, and it’s nice to know that it will always be that same, fattening, drunken, and always a teensy bit disappointing experience.

It is a wonderful time of year, because, in a world of uncertainty and danger, Christmas is a steadfast guarantee. On the 25th of December, however crap the year has been, we all decide to just be happy for a day, to smile, to give presents even though we haven’t got any money, and to see relatives even though we don’t really like them. We know that, whatever else happens in the year, Christmas will come.

And like in every other wonderful year, you are guaranteed to get at least one pair of socks, you are guaranteed to forget to send at least one Christmas card, and the dog is guaranteed to knock the Christmas tree over. The Christmas number one is guaranteed to be some random person off the X-Factor, and said random person off the X-Factor is subsequently guaranteed to disappear without trace. You are guaranteed to leave the price on the one present you bought from Poundland and one member of the family is guaranteed to have a little too much wine. A game of Cluedo or Monopoly is guaranteed to be taken far too seriously and result in the family not speaking for at least two hours, and your mother is guaranteed to have bought far too much cheese, because obviously, after approximately fifty courses, nobody ever much wants cheese and biscuits to finish.

There is also the guarantee of crappy Christmas TV. There is something comforting about Christmas TV – it is that sameness again. It is always the same old repeats, or new Christmas specials which are always exactly the same as every previous Christmas special. You can guarantee that ten billion different versions of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ will be on; you can guarantee that the seasonal episode of Eastenders will portray a Christmas so terrible that even turkeys, sitting on death-row and indulging in some trashy TV before their heads are cut off, will feel grateful that their own Christmas holds nothing worse than a bit of light slaughter. You can guarantee the queen will make a speech about how well we’ve all done to survive another year, and how, despite the tough economic climate, England will always be great; even if we all have to cut back a little in our everyday lives. Something I can’t quite see the queen doing, but whatever.

Christmas is so awesome because it is the remnant of our childhood, the only thing we are still allowed to believe in once we get older than 21. It goes against all practicality and common sense; it is the one indulgence we have left when we are all grown up. Christmas is to our year what the weekend is to our week – the thing that keeps us going, the light at the end of the tunnel, the very-much-needed break.

As we enter into a new year, we are once again left in the dark, unaware of what the future holds. Boyfriends, girlfriends, family, friends, jobs, plans, holidays, this whole austerity thing – we do not know how these things will change in the year ahead, but what we do know, the one thing we can guarantee, is that on December 25th, come rain, shine, or maybe even snow, Christmas will come again. It is above and beyond all human control. It does not answer to our petty human dramas, and it is not postponed by the weather or because we had a tough week. Christmas always comes. We cannot scare it away, it never ditches us for somebody younger or prettier or skinnier, and we can trust it always to be there. And that is why we love it.

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