Really, people, can you just stop it?
By “it”, I mean can you please stop denigrating our biggest national celebration: Christmas. Every year, I hear the same old plea: Christmas has become too commercial; it should be about giving; it should be about remembering the story of the baby Jesus.
No, people: Christmas is a festival of consumerism, of excess, and waste. Tears (how many times can one family have the same argument), laughter that causes incontinence, touching glimpses of childhood innocence that will soon be a thing of the past, and appalling moments of profound gloom.
What Christmas day is complete without wrapping paper strewn metres deep across the lounge room floor, a half-dead pine tree spiking needles in the carpet (and the arms of whoever carried it into the house), and a bunch of laughably inappropriate gifts that confirm one’s deep-seated existentialist conviction that no one on this planet actually has any idea of what you are on about.
The only antidote to that kind of profound spiritual crisis is to stuff oneself into a painful torpor over lunch, and spend the afternoon teetering on a queasy knife-edge brought about by a quick succession of alcoholic drinks that you failed to even notice passing your lips.
This is the way we celebrate Christmas. It is our very own cultural interpretation of a ceremony. If you think that we have gone off course, that this it is not really the way we like it, you need only consider that we take the same approach to Easter, adding only the extra thrill of careering down packed highways to a remote location at breakneck speed, swearing at the rest of the population.
That is how we do cultural celebrations in Australia; we go too far. But why do we lament it so much?
Hey, as the Brazilians lurch around their streets on Mardi Gras, oozing sweat, groping each other inappropriately, laughing too loud and, needless to say, drinking and eating too much, do they go home and berate themselves for having such a good time that it has become world famous (and lovingly transplanted to Australia by our gay and lesbian community)?
Do the Germans, straining their at their lederhosen from a lifetime of gut-rotting beer celebrations for Okoberfest, rush home to castigate themselves for having ruddy cheeks and gout? No, they consider these excesses essential to their cultural identity.
Look, the Puritans went to America, OK?
Australia was populated by riffraff with a serious penchant for rum, who followed the herd in the thousands anytime someone whispered “gold”.
We are a nation that would rather starve to death in search of an inland sea than face reality.
We know that we are ruining our livers – d’uh – setting ourselves up for Type 2 diabetes, starving our souls of important reflection time, and saying things to our relatives that can never be unsaid and may ruin our relationships with them forever (although fortunately they were too drunk to remember), but that is the way we like it.
So get over it and get into it. (You’ll be doing the retailers a big favour.)