Ah the Yule­time tra­di­tions of my youth, which in­volved a Marx­ist anal­y­sis of Santa’s means of pro­duc­tion and trolling sib­lings with chocolate

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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.

Go­ing out­side

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.

Christ­mas an­nu­als

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.

Christ­massy Films

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.

Se­lec­tion boxes

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

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