Ah the Yuletime traditions of my youth, which involved a Marxist analysis of Santa’s means of production and trolling siblings with chocolate
Nowadays at Christmastime we lie alone in our data pods, joylessly uploading virtual turkey while Twitter scrolls across our eyelids and we suck algae from a feeding tube. It’s certainly not like the Christmases I recall from the olden days (anytime before 2010). So here are some yuletide traditions I fondly remember.
In my day we made our own fun without the help of “iPads” or virtual reality headsets or robodogs. We would run into the street on Christmas morning with our hoop-and-sticks/ Millennium Falcons/ subscriptions to the New Yorker, eager to show the other urchins the goodies Father Christmas had bestowed upon us. But wait. What’s this? Ah no, Cormac got a BMX. Why didn’t I get a BMX? Why do you hate me so, mother? Christmas is ruined. If you wish to apologise to me I will be in my room weeping.
Savouring the smell of plastic
Oh, the smell of new Star Wars figures on a Christmas morning, that is the scent of my youth. If someone bottled Eau-de-Kenner, I swear to God I would douse myself in it every morning.
Hardback comic books filled with seasonal cheer. My favourite annual was Buster, which featured, among other stories: Boxatricks, about a young boy who owns a box-shaped portal to another dimension (all sorts of things come out of Boxatricks); Oddball, a cheering tale of a child who has enslaved a troubling, shape-changing alien; and Faceache who can transform his face into a Lovecraftian nightmare when convenient.
Here are the most Christmassy films I can think of (to save space I’m keeping the synopses brief, blending plots together where necessary).
The Sound of Music: singing Austrian refugees flee the Nazi menace (in this alternative reality, the Catholic Church helps them). Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: an eccentric slave-owner employs mind-games to help choose an heir.
Toy Story: Your toys are alive and feel pain. The Indiana Jones films: a university lecturer does archaeology.
Mary Poppins: a poor choice of servant leads to chaos and unemployment for the Banks family.
Die Hard/The Office: Christmas in an office building.
Who doesn’t love these cardboardy packages of goodness?
How to eat a selection box: Daintily eat each button from a pack of Buttons as your siblings horse into several bars simultaneously like ravenous beasts. Where possible, use a knife and fork and speak judgmentally about the importance of savouring your food. In the gluttonous confusion (it’s a crazy time) hide the rest of your selection box in the vegetable press.
Now wait until the other children have completely consumed their selection boxes. This will usually be during the first ad break for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Remove your selection box from the vegetable press and start shovelling the remnants into your maw while conspicuously rubbing your tummy and making appreciative sounds. When someone says: “Can I have a bit?” Say “no”, but insist sadly that it hurts you more than it does them. Say you hope that they’ve learned a lesson. Then offer them a go of the stupid game on the back of the box. Their salty tears of rage will add flavour to the sweet, sweet chocolate.
The Christmas soaps
Each year millions tune in to the Christmas day soaps to watch other families bicker and cheat and, sometimes, murder one another. This serves an important function in reminding us that though our specific family has problems, none of them are currently cheating or murdering anyone. In that spirit, I’ve just pitched a recurring Christmas series to RTÉ about the cannibal family in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
The Alternative Queen’s Christmas Message
Being Irish, we weren’t hugely interested in the vat-grown human embodiment of the British class system. So instead of the queen’s Christmas message, RTÉ would run A Quiet Word With a County Councillor.
“Ah, it’s yourself,” he would begin. “How’s the mother?” (“Grand, thanks for asking,” we’d respond to the telly in unison).
Then we’d huddle around the telly, as the man in the anorak, seated in the gym of a community centre, told us how to fill in forms and how he got us some new bollards for the estate. It would end with the traditional sign off: “I scratch your back and you scratch mine,” he’d say. “Come election time!” we’d all join in with a happy laugh.
Okay, I think it’s time everyone went out and helped Mam and Dad in the kitchen. (Don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually just planning to get in the way.) Oh, you’d prefer if we just sat down? Okay so. (Hyuck! hyuck! My plan worked perfectly.)
Contemplating the innocence of a child:
“Uncle Patrick, why doesn’t Santa bring equal amounts of toys for every one?”
“Because, for his own reasons, Santa chooses to reflect but not challenge the existing socioeconomic power structures.”
“Oh. But I’ll still get presents?” “Yes, you’ll still get presents.” “Phew.” Plays with toys. “But, so we’re clear, Santa’s ultimately a shill for vested interests.”
“Oh well. What can you do?” Shrugs. Continues to play with toys.
Complaining about Downton Abbey
Ugh. Look at this horrid exploitation of the working man by a clueless parasite grown fat on his labour. How is this gildedage twaddle considered Christmassy? Why yes father, I would like a sandwich. Don’t skimp on the turkey this time. Alas, my goblet of port is empty. Perhaps, when you have refilled it you could carry me to bed?
In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, an eccentric slaveowner employs mind-games to help choose an heir
Unseal and inhale for that special Christmas smell