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Happy Christmas folks! Okay, so I’m a cynical hypocrite out to exploit a time of giving by wanting to be on the receiving end. The best way to do that is to pretend I like Christmas. I thought that’s what we all did. What can you expect from a fessed-up atheist and anarchist? If you’re kind enough to invite scroungers like me round for Christmas dinner, you can hardly expect me not to gobble up your turkey and guzzle down all your best wine. People like me see it as our duty to get sozzled enough to complain bitterly about almost everything under the sun, especially Christmas. We’ll tell you you’re a bunch of brainwashed capitalist lackeys before swearing at you, downing the last dregs of your finest brandy, snatching up the gifts you generously bestowed on us and slamming the door behind us as we leave in a huff.
But don’t we all become hypocritical frauds at Christmas? That’s what the season of goodwill is about. More or less. While wishing the neighbours you hate a ‘Very Merry’ out loud, beneath your frosty breaths, you wish they’d never moved in and hope they’ll choke to death on a turkey bone before the year’s out.
Let’s face it, Scrooge was right; Christmas is one big whopping fib from start to finish. It’s a time when grown-ups con their innocents into believing Santa Claus comes down the chimney heaving a sack stuffed with toys. Even those who don’t have chimneys. They know full well it’s the same bare-faced lie they were told as nippers. In most households, despite their begging letters to Santa, the little rascals will be getting far more new underpants and socks than they will Lego sets and fluffy bunnies.
But we growns-ups still insist on perpetuating the great Christmas hoax in full realisation of the disppointment that will come the day some smart-arsed kid mocks little Justin and Taylor to tears just because their parents didn’t have the guts to tip them the wink. It happens to us all one day.
Yet we carry on the tradition of deceit despite knowing karma will wreak revenge when the lie rebounds. Spotty teenagers intent on sucking whatever worldly wealth you have left, before you throw them out on the streets, don’t forget things like the lie of Christmas. They throw it back in your face at every opportunity. Just because your parents did it to you doesn’t let you off the hook; theirs did it to them, and so on, right back to the Garden of Eden where Eve nicked an apple off the tree of knowledge when she thought God wasn’t looking. Dishonesty runs through our genes.
Lying your way through Christmas for the little ones, so they will learn how to do it, is an annual rite of passage we all have to go through to make children suffer. It begins with Mum and Dad deceiving themselves into believing they have enough spare dosh to go out to the shops to buy lots of stuff nobody actually needs. Experts in fraud, the banks more than encourage the racket by loaning money they don’t have either, having gambled it away in Ponzi schemes decades ago. They just conjure it up on computer screens knowing the shops will go along with the scam till the day we see all of us have no clothes. Meanwhile, we conspire to keep the illusion alive by pretending we do. It’s an ill wind. The rusting Yuletide sledge of false hope must carry on flying aboard the wingless merry-go-round of double-dealing plowing its voyage through the sea of deception in a sieve made of sand, to mix metaphors with scant regard for the English language.
Back in the home they pretend to own, while enjoying the pleasure of forking out a hefty sum in mortgage repayments each month for most of their working lives, Mum and Dad scowl at each other for buying all those unecessary extras they now have to wrap. It’s Christmas Eve, a time to look forward to bleak winter months of endless overtime to satisfy the never-ending greed of the banks, who always want you to pay back their Mickey Mouse cash with the real stuff. Having nobody else to blame Mum and Dad go for each other’s jugulars. Stark reality is beginning to dawn. Demand after Christmas is low and bills are high; they will be lucky to get any overtime at all. But hey, it is Christmas. Maybe it’ll go on forever this year and nobody will wake up.
Seeking solace in a pitcher of extra strong mulled wine Mum and Dad hope the artificial sensation of cheer derived will lead to eventual oblivion before midnight, instead of blowing up into the anger and resenment they have been concealing all year. To the sound of Bing Crosby dreaming of a white Christmas yet again, they wrap gifts ever more erratically, in direct relation to the number of refills following refills.
A sad-looking fake fir tree, assembled from boxes of green plastic in the sombre grey atmosphere of an industrial wasteland on the outskirts of a Chinese megacity draped in permanent clouds of poisonous fog, leans to one side as its twinkling lights attempt to brighten the miserable lives of a mock Christian family weighed down by visions of even more debt in a lifetime of debt without end. The cheap flashy tack that sparkled and beckoned from the overloaded shelves of a giant store doesn’t seem quite so attractive now. Without uttering a word to one another, the partners in artifice and trickery try to recall a time they didn’t see Christmas through a blur of alcohol. Surrounded by sheets of gaudy plastic and paper, as rolls of sticky tape roll out of reach, they try to fashion a Christmas past that never really existed outside their heads into the perfect Christmas of their imaginations. They pretend they are doing it for the children. They went Christmas shopping to buy a dream on credit but were sold a nightmare of debt.
Comforting themselves with ‘just one more before bed’ they convince themselves that at least they will be teaching Justin and Taylor how unfair the world is. A world where even Mums and Dads tell packs of lies. The lack of faith and betrayal of trust Justin and Taylor will learn from Christmas will help them cope with the truth that everybody — even their parents — are out to con them.
So, I wonder whose Christmas joy I’m going to spoil with my cynicism this year, I may have run myself out of options. Anybody got a spare seat at the table for New Year?
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