I was in Marks and Spencers the other day. There is some very odd theology at work there. They have lots of sparkly cardboard animals dotted about the place. These are of varying levels of actual festiveness – reindeer (traditional), doves (less so) and squirrels (eh?). All of these animals, regardless of race, colour, creed and species, are wearing crowns. We are therefore to assume that somehow all these animals are to be considered King of the Jews.
And again I say: eh?
It gets worse. I too work in retail and I have been told that standing orders from our superiors mean that we must – must – play Christmas music from December. We have been told we must ding-dong merrily, by On High.
Usually what happens round about day 4 of this sort of thing is that I start thinking earnestly about sticking a bough of holly up someone’s fa-la-laa, and I turn increasingly Grinch-like. Ceaseless exposure does that to me, in the same way that exposure to gamma rays turned likeable Dr Bruce Banner into the green and rampaging Incredible Hulk.
It’s not just Christmas music that, when poured mercilessly and unremittingly out upon me, makes my inner child curl up and cry inconsolably. I blame the Logos for my aversion to any Christian music in which I am not participating. I could try to justify it (partially) by explaining that I think there is a real problem, somewhere, when descriptions of God’s relationship with Man become a sort of ceaselessly-droning aural wallpaper that slowly fills your head with mush – but mainly it was the endless repetition of monumentally bland Christian music, played eternally from a very small selection of CDs, that finally drove me round the twist.
Christmas is like that, only worse. Firstly, the selection of songs is very limited. Once you take out all the religious stuff (and it gets taken out, for fear of offending people) what you’re left with is shockingly bad. Noddy Holder screeches “It’s Chriiiiiiiiistmaaaaaas!” like the turkey is not alone in getting unexepected condiments forced into unexpected places, and he does this every 45 seconds if you are moving through a shopping centre at a normal walking pace. If you remain in one place, however, you can enjoy him on a much less frequent basis. He will be interspersed with other delights. And even the good ones – ‘Fairytale of New York’, for instance – lose their lustre round about the fifteenth time you hear them in a given day.
Secondly, everybody hates it. Christmas singles are novelty songs. The meaning of the word ‘novelty’ is ‘state or quality of being novel, new, or unique’. After 28 imprecations to ‘Stop the Cavalry’ it has ceased to be novel, new or unique and has instead become hackneyed, depressing and ubiquitous. And these are songs that everyone hears all the time because those in a position to put on music – DJs, the hollowed-out husks of managerial types with no soul – feel somehow beholden to a tradition that they have wretchedly created and now don’t know how to stop. The net result is that peace and goodwill to all men is put further off while everyone looks for enough ivy to strangle the little drummer boy and enough mistletoe and wine to justify some really bad office-party decisions.
You may think I’m getting a little ahead of myself by raising all this at the beginning of November. And I wish, oh how I wish, that that were the case. But I’m not. Boots started playing Christmas music on November the first. The decorations are in place in M&S. The writing is on the wall, and observe it with fear and trembling, for it says “Must-Have Christmas Gifts’.
(Am I alone in thinking that Christmas would be a lot more fun, less hassle, and considerably more charitable if we were to realise that the words ‘must have’ stand in direct opposition to the more noble sentiments of the season?)
But there is almost nothing I can do. It has been determined at levels higher than I dare contemplate that my bells must jingle, my reindeer must be red-nosed and my grandmother needs to take road-safety precautions very seriously indeed on the night before christmas (where all through the house / one creature was stirring. It was my Famous Grouse). All I can do is to try and find Christmas music that is actually worth listening to, and construct that playlist in the hopes of staving off the inevitable psychotic break for as long as possible.
Your help in this endeavour would be greatly appreciated. So if you have any suggestions, please, share them in the comments section below.
Your moment of Zen for today: