Crackers at Christmas
One of the tropes of a certain brand of conservative media outlet is that Christmas is under threat. The usual suspects are rounded up: The EU, Muslims, immigrants.
Dame Louise Casey, the government’s “integration tsar,” cited Christmas in a report in September, saying: “I have become convinced that it is only the upholding of our core British laws, cultures, values and traditions that will offer us the route map through the different and complex challenge of creating a cohesive society.”
Laws of the land are one thing; British culture and traditions quite another. For the latter, apparently the “integration tsar” doesn’t believe in integration. Shouldn’t she be called the “assimilation tsar”—or perhaps even the “re-education tsar”?
As Santa Claus might say: Ho ho ho.
• A lot of Christmas traditions, like so much of British culture, came from elsewhere. To name a few: Christmas trees were likely a German idea originally; panto came from the Italian tradition of commedia dell’arte; mulled wine from the Ancient Greeks. The jolly, rotund image of Santa famously began in a 1931 Coca-Cola ad.
• “British values” are often described as religious, Christian values. But for the majority of Britons, Christmas doesn’t have much or anything to do with Christ any more. People of no religion now outnumber Christians in England and Wales, and this year the number of people attending Church of England services each week for the first time dropped below 1 million, accounting for less than 2 percent of the population. Non-Christian Britons are no less British.
• Having some sort of celebration in the dead of winter has long been appealing to many people whether religious or not. It was something people did long before the idea was co-opted by Christianity—and long before any politician uttered the phrase “British values.”
• One longstanding Christmas “tradition” is that for many, it’s a terrible time of year. If you are not living the soft-focus, pastel-hued fantasy life depicted in department store Christmas ads, you feel guilty, a failure, literally and metaphorically missing out on the party. Instead of this being a time of light, warmth, food, gifts, singing, laughing and good company, for many it is instead one of darkness, cold, hunger, loss, silence, tears and loneliness. Clients complain of the stress and expense of Christmas, and the pressure to be happy. The Samaritans volunteers are especially busy at this time of year.
1. What is a psychopath?
John Barton is a counsellor, psychotherapist, blogger and writer with a private practice in Marylebone, Central London. To contact, click here.