ON THE INTERPRETATION OF CHRISTMAS
relishing the moments of bob awards 2014
Father Christmas has always been a difficult concept for me. An omniscient fat man in a fur-trimmed leisure suit, black boots, white beard, apple-red cheeks, and bursting with jolliness as he glides across the night sky in a reindeerdrawn sleigh overflowing with gifts.
I've never spent much time in the northern hemisphere. Perhaps Father Christmas makes more sense there. But where I grew up just the thought of him made my head hurt. All around me there were absurd attempts to make him seem more believable, to shoehorn him into a local environment that had no snow or dark freezing cold evenings. He was
“All of this, however, only
served to confirm in my mind that Father Christmas was the mother of all lies.”
sometimes portrayed as wearing sunglasses and swimwear, while alternative entrances in chimney-less houses were invented. A recently shamed entertainer even sang a song replacing Santa's reindeer with six white kangaroos.
All of this, however, only served to confirm in my mind that Father Christmas was the mother of all lies, one that my parents told to me because they thought the truth might be too distressing. And it was a lie I pretended to believe for much the same reason, never wanting to upset their faith in my gullible innocence. Even more disturbing was that I kept this perverse tradition alive by lying to my own children despite the anguish it caused me and despite the suspicion – justified as it turned out – that they knew full well I was not telling the truth.
As a consequence, it's always been a source of comfort to me that Christmas Day, as is generally well known, roughly coincides with the more ancient, and more universal celebration of the solstice – winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the south. This allows me to enjoy Christmas without compromise. It's a day to celebrate friendship and family - the pleasures as well as the frictions - to eat and drink together, to give and to receive – and to rejoice in the Sun. There is magic and wonder aplenty in all that too. Without the intellectual tools of the astronomer or astrophysicist at my disposal, the Earth's orbit feels like magic enough to me without the intervention of an all seeing, all knowing Father Christmas.
Whichever faith you follow and whichever hemisphere you are in, whether you're soaking up the rays on Kuta beach, or standing in Oslo knee-deep in snow, should you struggle with the contradictions of Christmas you only have to think of December 25 as a celebration of that great giver of life, the Sun. And if Father Christmas – or Santa Claus, or whatever else you want to call him – creeps into your thoughts, you can regard him as a symbol in human form of a big ball of fire showering us with gifts. And whoever or whatever you believe put that ball there, it's there for everyone.
So, season's greetings to all of you. Have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and don't forget to apply your sunscreen!