In a year of unrelenting disaster, nothing could be more welcome than the news that Christmas is cancelled. Any human of sound mind has surely been hoping for such an eventuality to come to pass since Father Christmas’s true identity was revealed and the glittery scales of Christmas fell from our eyes.
The early signs of promise were reported this weekend: East Lothian, North and South Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross and South Ayrshire are five pioneering councils in Scotland who have thankfully decided to cancel festival light-switching-on events. “Gathering many local people together for community events, even outdoors, poses a risk to the public health”, East Lothian Council representative Willie Innes. Fingers crossed that councils up and down the land look to Willie as Christmas’s very own Christopher Columbus.
Christmas has morphed into a heinous display of commercial gluttony.
Whoever is in charge of Winter Wonderland – the extortionate annual festive theme park in London that makes Dante’s Inferno look like a trip to Mustique – is clearly of Willie’s school of thought. “Hyde Park Winter Wonderland has always been about bringing friends and family together in a fun, safe and interactive environment to celebrate the festive season”, read a statement. “Our team has worked tirelessly, exploring every possible option in the hopes of being able to move forward with the event in a responsible manner and provide London with some much-needed festive cheer. However, in light of ongoing health concerns, travel restrictions and uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, and considering the size and scale of this event, we just couldn’t find a way to do that without compromising the magical attractions, shows, rides, bars and experiences that make Hyde Park Winter Wonderland so special”. Rejoice!
Over time, Christmas has morphed into a heinous display of commercial gluttony, with Christ’s birth long forgotten. In 2018, only 2.4 million British people were thought to have attended a (Church of England) church service on Christmas day – 3.5% of the population at the time. To put this into context, Winter Wonderland claims to host an average of 3 million visits each year.
“Where are you having Christmas this year?” has become an acceptable question to ask as early as July.
It’s not just the insatiable desire for plastic on the part of the young, or the unquenching thirst of the old that make Christmas so repellent. “Where are you spending Christmas this year?” has become an acceptable question to ask as early as July. July! Why oh why are we all persuaded to plan this onslaught of food, drink and socialising six months in advance? Have we completely lost our minds? Christmas has become a violent attack on the body, the mind and the soul.
Yuletide isn’t the only so-called celebration that has been destroyed by our ravenous desire for socially acceptable forms of “fun”. Mary Killen recently wrote here in Chapter House about how weddings nowadays are fanfares of unnecessary cost and exhibitionism. “Weddings have become festivals of egotism”, she wrote. “The expense of the dress, the flowers and the marquee and the catering – all of which detract from the religious importance of the union”.
Tragically, Christmas has fallen foul of the same fate. But thankfully, coronavirus has righted this wrong. This year, let us rejoice in the gift that Covid-19 has given: Christmas as we knew it is gone. Let’s leave the tinsel in the cupboard under the stairs and focus on that which matters the most.
Constance Watson is the assistant editor of the Catholic Herald. She contributes to The Spectator, The Telegraph, Standpoint, the Literary Review and more.
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