23 December 2009

Psst - wanna buy an image of Christmas guv?

Christmas. Yes I know it's Christmas - but what exactly is Christmas?

That may seem a simple question but often the simplest questions are the most complex to answer.

Is it a celebration? Is it a holiday? Is it a word? Perhaps it's a feeling?

Could it be that Christmas as many people tend to know it, is not a celebration, not a religious event - but an image.

Over the decades our perception of Christmas has been forged more by market forces than by the original story. We have come a long way from a simple stable to packed department stores. Just as the Three Kings of Orient had great expectations that very first Christmas, we too have great expectations.

We want and expect the image.

Somewhere along the way a few shepherds and three Eastern kings on camels, turned in a sleigh driven by a fat, jolly man in a red suit, (can we say "fat" or is Santa 'obese" because of fast food and too many video games?) The image we have of Santa Claus or Father Christmas, is more often or not the image of the 30s era Cocoa-Cola Santa Claus.

We want Bing Crosby, we expect and virtually demand Jimmy Stewart. We want to sing along to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, (originally a Christmas story written as a promotional gimmick for a Chicago department store).

There are people all over the northern hemisphere yearning for snow for Christmas. Why? Where does snow come into Christmas? I can't recall Joseph leaning over Mary and telling her, "I know your kind of busy right now love - but guess what? it's snowing!"

It's said that Christmas is for children. Yet that yearning for a White Christmas became even greater after Bing Crosby, one of the least child-friendly bastards you could come across, first warbled out the familiar and unceasingly dreary, "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas..." His kids dreamed of but were denied a happy childhood, but Bing and Christmas go together like mistletoe and holly.

Then of course we have - The Christmas Present.

All over the world, millions of harassed shoppers are panic-stricken searching for a present to give Aunt Ida, or Uncle Bill, who they can't stand anyway and only see at Christmas weddings and funerals - and even then they argue.

Let's not forget, The Visit. You know what I mean. It's where you spend three hours dragging three kids to see someone they don't want to see, then you sit in the car on the way home making the same affirmation you have made several times before. 'Well, that's the last time I'm going there I can tell you. If she wants to see us, she can come to us next year."

In Australia it is arguably even worse than in the northern hemisphere. I love Australia, I love Sydney, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. But no matter how many times the stores play Frosty The Snowman, Winter Wonderland - and of course White Christmas - the chances of the Harbour Bridge being covered in snow are to say the very least - remote. Unless of course someone decides to sell the image of Global Cooling once Global Warming has outlived its profitability.

Yes Virginia, there is a Christmas.

But you wont find Christmas on a card or in a movie. You wont come across it on the, 'Everything must go" counter at the local department store. You don't have to brave traffic jams or packed-to-the-rafters car parks. There is no need to elbow another shopper out of the way to get the last War of The Worlds video game.

You wont find Christmas anywhere except in your heart. The rest is just an image. Like a mirage in a desert, the image will vanish as soon as the holiday season is over and we all forget about peace and goodwill and go back to normal bitching and sniping and race, religion and gender based/sexual bigotry.

They say Christmas comes but once a year - but it doesn't have to - not if it's in your heart and not wrapped in throw-away-paper adorned with the Coca-Cola Santa Claus.

Of course there are those who want you to believe it comes but once a year - it's far more profitable that way.

That's it until Jan 4th 2010. Have a great Christmas and a safe, healthy and happy New Year.

Wherever you may be - be safe

Copyright Mike Hitchen Online, Lane Cove, NSW, Australia. All rights reserved