Just because I anticipate this time of year with a heavy dread, doesn’t mean I’m an awful person.
First some literary corrections.
Ebenezer Scrooge was a miser and was mean to everyone around him all year round.
He did have a heart and compassion (you can’t just develop them overnight just because you’ve seen a ghost – or three…)
I, on the other hand am loving, generous, and openly compassionate (often wasted on the cold and heartless. Note: remember this in 2014) most of the year.
But… the next person that calls me Scrooge gets it. A full and foul outburst where I tell them they’re stupid followers and mindless slaves to consumerism (“let’s hock the house and buy our kids EVERYTHING they want honey!”)
I’ve already bought one person I don’t like a gift (an in-law); will probably be invited by my neighbour (who doesn’t particularly like me; it’s OK, it’s mutual) for drinks and sent cards to more than three people who I have no feeling for whatsoever.
Is this Christmas spirit? Is this what we’ve come to understand and accept as festive cheer? You can keep it.
Not liking Christmas is not liking the hypocrisy, the lies, the stepped up budgets each year for presents and the expense. Yes it bloody well does all cost too much.
The few catalogues that come through my door have this smirking section at the back: ‘Gifts for £1.99.’ It reaches out to those either unwilling (because they’re mean) or unable (because they’re poor) to spend more. It makes you feel mean and poor. What the hell’s wrong with a £1.99 gift?
Frankly I like giving gifts. But I don’t like the duty of buying them. I’ve scaled it right down this year. I gave my daughter a list (because she asked for one) but insisted she buy from charity shops. I can’t stand new stuff.
Every year I get called Scrooge when I’m checking my shopping out and complaining about the season (it’s not a season, it’s one day.)
Sure, let’s have a feast and a family gathering. But do it without presents and cards (oh the bloody cards…)
(An aside about the cards. What’s the point when the sender has just written their names and your family’s names inside? No greeting, no kisses, no little note…)
For the cultural ripples that this one book left, I want to put Dickens in the stocks and fling tomatoes (or cheap presents – shower gel, mince pies, keyrings that beep…) at him.
I make a supreme effort every day to do right by my children and family. I serve them (yes, serve them) and consider them in everything I do. So is Christmas for those who feel guilty at having neglected their loved ones all year? Is it a sort of plea for forgiveness? (‘Soz’…)
Yep I think it is.
The social manipulation and hoping to have me complicit in everyone else’s own filthy Christmas apology requiring debt, grudge, resentment and bestial overeating is unwelcome.
To you, I’m Scrooge (have they even read the novel?); in my own eyes, I’m noisily and publicly rebelling against the one massive festive apology to our loved ones.
It all started while watching Jason and the Argonauts (original). The blind man feeds heartily for the first time and good Jason shouts, ‘Good appetite!’ Translated from the Greek I assume. Is this what the Greeks say?
I began thinking of Spain, France and Italy; their wish revolves around the food, your appetite, even exploiting what’s on offer (‘Que aproveches!’) There’s not a hint of having to enjoy anything. The implications of this are so far reaching I feel like throwing my lemon-scented, steamy facecloths at the waiter. Enjoy that!
My problems is that it requires some sort of specific personality trait. More than filling up on food. More than satisfying your appetite. It suggests a mood, a cheerful, smiling attitude while chewing; a smiley disposition, eyes dilated with happiness, a sort of frenzied joy. Can’t I just chew and swallow in my own humble way?
And then the terror that they might ask if I enjoyed my meal. What happens if I just feel quietly pleased with the experience, if I didn’t enjoy it in the way they mean? It’ll give the impression that I’m a sour sod who just wants to be miserable.
My complaint is that it reflects on my character. It has such far-reaching implications about the way I lead my life. Such as, do I enjoy laughter or loving relationships? Do I enjoy any hobbies? Am I even lad to be alive? You don’t need to bring personality into it when you eat. Caveman didn’t. He ripped his mammoth meat from the bone, drooled and slavered and felt fortified and lucky if anything.
Let’s not pretend that wishing companions well before they eat is any sort of tradition in this country. Let’s accept that for millennia suede, bread and ale were got rid of as quickly as possible. (interestingly, we have ‘Cheers’ or ‘Bottoms up’ for drink…)
Maybe that’s how such an unreasonable command came to precede eating here. To take our minds off the taste. To help us forget that we were eating bread and dripping or sparrow (beak intact).
OK that’s unfair. The upper echelons of English society probably did enjoy every mouthful of venison, spit-roast hog, fruit, pie and julienne carrots. The rest might well have dreaded mealtimes. ‘What’s for dinner?’ ‘Bread and dripping…’
So the fake-established order to enjoy is out of place and for me unwanted.
Maybe I’m being awkward and impossible to please. Isn’t it nice that we now have some sort of food-enjoyment-related quip from staff? No.
You can wish me, ‘Good appetite’ or tell me to ‘Eat hearty’ (White Christmas, ahhh…) Once you start demanding that I enjoy, my meal’s ruined. I instantly feel I have the wrong personality for that establishment. They’d rather have bouncy, witty customers who can tell charming anecdotes and leave monumental tips.
I’m interested to know if most countries say something before eating. Or do most just hope to be satisfied and not poisoned by their meal?
So far, I haven’t succumbed to this annoying phrase. Even at Christmas, we’ll just probably wish each other well and tuck in. Seems a civilised thing to do in the face no tradition of anything better.