Heard someone suggest two Christmas-related bans the other day. One being that we should not allow Christmas advertising until December 1: yet other that something terminal should be done to all existing copies of ‘Snoopy’s Christmas’.
It’s difficult not to feel some sympathy for both suggestions but it got me pondering a wider question: is there something about Christmas which brings out the calls for banning of various things?
A book I came across in the last year called “Christmas in the Crosshairs” recounts all the ways in which people have, down the centuries, tried to find ways to ban Christmas or otherwise shove people’s behaviour around a bit over the annual festival.
The “war on Christmas” has emerged as another front in the bizarre US ‘culture wars’, and that is what seems to have prompted the book.
Some historical attempts to expunge Christmas are almost funny, others are sinister.
They also banned school nativity plays. I don’t know about you but when I read that I had a momentary, uneasy and guilty ‘weeerl, maybe the Nazis weren’t all bad after all’ feeling.
Don’t worry. The mood passed.
During the Cold War, East German authorities banned Christmas angels – they became ‘end of year winged figures’. The Soviets banned Christmas at various times in various forms under their different satellite regimes.
In Brunei, wearing a Santa hat is punishable by five years’ imprisonment, which must take all the fun out of pulling Christmas crackers.
Today some fascist groups who have adopted a particularly pagan focused approach protest that the winter solstice is the real Christmas, while on the other side of the spectrum, anti consumer groups protest (and extreme cases vandalise) shops which begin their Christmas promos in October. There are anti-consumer protest songs in shopping malls, while Communists stage atheist musicals outside churches on Christmas Eve.
One or two of these claims have the whiff of urban myth, but you get the idea.
Christmas is such a large event there’s enough to annoy anyone. And like any such mass events it brings out the busybodies, to tell the rest of us we are either doing it wrong or should not be doing it at all.
Anyway. I don’t think there’s anything I’d ban about Christmas. The Festival of the Cash Register aspect can be a bit much if you’re not careful but I’m fortunately from a family which never spent up large.
Related is the whole, having to go into the big city and finding there is No Room at the Carpark.
As for the religious aspect…My religious views and feelings put me in the Christian tradition, but I’m not a biblical literalist.
From what I can make out successive generations have bunged together different traditions from the middle east and northern Europe (and probably elsewhere but I’m too tired to go look them up) and those traditions have been layered on each other, going back thousands of years and well beyond the AD/BC divide.
What we’re left with now is a multilayered hybrid of traditional practices going back a few thousand years. .
The mixes of traditions and festivals; the quiet blend of many different strands of bacchanalia and worship are great things to have, I think.
From what I have read, the party -animal aspect of Christmas, with drunken wassailing (I don’t know what wassailing is but it sounds like fun) overshadowed the more reverential aspects.
That was at least until the Interregnum, when Oliver Cromwell’s puritans rather took against Christmas because too many people were having too much fun.
We can’t have That Sort of Thing. And Christmas got banned as a result.
Actually, I just looked up ‘wassailing’. Christmas carols door to door. In Europe, began in the 4th-5th century or so but probably went back further.
We haven’t been big on it in New Zealand and I can suggest an anecdotal reason why this might be: a tale of an Methodist dairy farmer who, many years ago, sent away the carol singers with a polite but firm Wesleyan flea in their ears after the singing upset the cows. A group had gathered at the road gate and cows must have been in the front paddock that day.
Can’t have Christmas affecting milk production.
And personally, while growing up Christmas was certainly a time of good cheer but also of rather a lot of hard work. Hay making, as well as the peaking of the milking season, saw to that.
It was fun. My favourite time of the year, growing up on the farm and I’ll probably write a bit more about this later.
Popular Christmas songs come in a range from the deeply religious (‘Once in Royal David’s City’, ‘Hark the Herald Angels’ Sing’, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, ‘Silent Night’ etc) to the deeply commercial (almost anything where the chorus is festooned with a surplus of bells, bells that insist on jingling and jangling and so forth).
Religious or not, I love the stentorian uplift of the best Christmas hymns. My musical knowledge is pretty meagre, but there is an optimism, a promise and an incongruous mix of the stirring and the settling about a lot of the more traditional Christmas hymns are musically constructed.
Then there are the ones which have become popular Christmas hits after a bit of conscious hype. The Brits, as the fillum ‘Love Actually’ reminds us, put a lot of effort into this. Over the years, from memory, they’ve had whatever the hit from ‘Love Actually’was, ‘Stop the Cavalry’, ‘Fairytale of New York’, and err that’s about all I can, or rather all I want to particularly want to remember right now.
The the secular Yuletide toe-tapper I’d like to see go the way of the Angel of Mons*, though, is Snoopy’s Christmas.
I’ve written about it before and won’t dwell on it again.
The only thing I’ll add is that if enough of us are going to insist on adding this effort from the bogusly-named Band of the Royal Guardsmen, and if we’re going to link a toy doggie doll with world war, can we at least have a be a rule which says ‘Snoopy’s Christmas’ can only be played before Pearl Harbour Day on December 7?
This year I swear I heard it mid October. If its going up that early, dammit, it can come down from the second week of December.
I think there also needs to be a rule that whenever the tune is played, everyone has to stop and view the clip of the band, studying closely the pimples on the drummer’s neck.
The band look so utterly naff the enthusiasm for the song will be shredded, in a couple of seasons.
The tune itself is tolerable, I suppose, when it is a novelty hit, and I supposed it is a little less intolerable when you are three, which how old I was when it actually was a hit.
Neither of those apply in my life anymore and I really just want it to stop. No more Snoopy’s Christmas after Pearl Harbour Day on December 7.
But that’s about it for any bans related to Christmas.
Compliments of the season, and all that.
Oh, and, what the hell. It is Christmas, after all. Forget the ban.
Merry Christmas, my friends!