Why am I noticing so many clumsy attempts to ‘keep the Christ in Christmas’ this year? Has it really stepped up, or has mainstream society just moved on so much that, by comparison, demonstrative religiots seem dafter than usual?
Obviously the worst example was the C of E’s fake outrage over a cheesy advert that a cinema chain would not run (more, I suspect, to avoid howls of laughter than any worry that popcorn munchers would take offence en masse). But I definitely smell rank desperation at the parish pump level.
And in a church on Sunday to give moral support to a relative, I had the oddest feeling. Usually, once a year I cast rationality aside and just join in the well known carols – subtly slipping in all the alternative words we used to learn at school. But this year I examined the words in the hymn-sheet as if for the first time, and could not be bothered to sing such twaddle.
It was not just because the words mean nothing personal (lyrics by slightly batty Victorians have made schoolkids scratch their heads since who knows when) but because I finally accepted that the whole social charade on which the enjoyment of ‘traditional’ Christmas was based has collapsed. After years of amicably agreeing to turn the brain off and politely indulge religious friends and relatives for one hour a year, I am finally in the same place as my young daughter, to whom Christian tradition has never meant anything and, like Star Wars or 1970’s pop, has always been odd gibberish from another time and place that only fossils understand.
So Sunday’s carol concert was – at best – a sing-song for octagenarians on an afternoon pass from the care home. Just a collection of nonsense songs to give the bewildered who made up about half of the audience something to join in with. It might as well have been Victorian music hall songs or Flanders & Swann (both of which actually featured in last year’s version).
Perhaps I should be happy the whole charade has collapsed, but it feels more like the day my daughter saw through Father Christmas. Mixed in with the relief that, finally, I can abandon all pretence is my pity for those to whom it still matters – rather like pretending not to notice when Great Uncle Albert wets his trousers on Boxing Day.