Spe­cial re­port



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!

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