It being the First of December and everything, my thoughts began to drift to the annual frightfest or Saturnalia which we in the West have henceforth decided that Xmas, or the Winter Holiday should become. I’m glad I live in France. It tends to lay off the carols-and-mince-pies type of bonhomie that you can’t avoid in the UK from mid-October onwards, instead relying on vast expenditures of electrical energy to light up the Eiffel Tower and the jolly animated displays in Galeries Lafayette. When the bill comes in January they’ll realize that it could comfortably have paid for the overthrow of a small dictatorship. Caveat dictator, as they say in Damascus. This came to mind because the seven year old son of our photographer disclosed over the lunch table without a trace of embarrassment a belief in Santa Claus. In Israel, near the end of term, Santa rode around on a camel to the delight of the rising fives. Joy to the world.
Annually, the elderly bemoan the secularization of Xmas, while listening to that great Northern Hemisphere classic ‘Frosty the Snowman’ on the radio, a keyboard rendition of which I once heard by HM Ambassador to the State of Kuwait to riotous applause and much blowing of squeakers. The only graphic I could find of him (Frosty, not HMA) suggests he is both fat and naked, for which I can only apologize. I have of course chosen one without his ubiquitous pipe – we wouldn’t want to give the impression that Frosty’s a crack-head, now would we? Frosty isn’t the only secular bandit. We have, of course ‘Rudolf’ who didn’t have a red nose because it was cold, he had one because of too much sherry. Does anyone still remember the beloved old classic ‘When Santa Got Stuck up the Chimney?’ Threatening in a nastily Fascist kind of way that unless he’s extricated, nobody gets any presents. Also, Father Xmas has obesity issues, which is why he got stuck in the first place, so there’s subliminal pressure to lose weight. I’m surprised there isn’t a French version since the entire nation is both obsessed with food and fitting into size zero dresses.
Like the scratching of fingernails on a blackboard, Bing Crosby’s ‘White Xmas’ can still be heard, warbling away in the background amidst haemorrhagic credit cards in shopping malls, and, ironically in an Israeli dentist’s waiting room in May. I felt instantly soothed. In hotel elevators, the drippily rising cadence of ‘Silver Bells’ is in evidence, even when going down, which is disorientating, together with the vomitous ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ and ‘Wonderful Xmas Time’ to the jingling accompaniment of imaginary sleigh bells. If you’ve ever been hoodwinked into going on a sleigh ride on Christmas Eve, as I once was in Austria, you’re far less concerned with the jolly winter wonderland as with trying to get home before extremities freeze and bits start dropping off.
Now, don’t get all preachy on me, unless you’re a preacher and it’s your job. Just remember, the Incarnation is for life, not just for Christmas. Cheers (and mingled boos).