Christmas Lights

21 December 2015 Fiona Scott-Norman

Christmas Lights

IT’S EASY TO bag Christmas. By this time of the year most of us are stretched tighter than lycra shorts on a dumpy cyclist, what with the sheer buggery bollocks of gift shopping and the imminent prospect of internecine family squabbles. I myself snapped halfway through November in a $2 shop. An electronic version of ‘Jingle Bells’ was playing, and it was apparently looped to infinity. I lost all sense of time and propriety and found myself at the counter, hand on the arm of the shopkeeper, saying “Please. Please make it stop.” And yet, there’s also a lot to love about Christmas. The trick is to focus on the small wonders of the season, and limit your exposure to giant shopping centres. (Truly, they suck out your soul through your eyes.) Here, then, in handy listicle form, are eight reasons I ❤ Christmas. Seasons Greetings!

Dubstep Christmas Light Shows Thomas Edison commercialised the electric light bulb, so it’s fitting that the US leads the world in turning Christmas lights into a competitive sport. In 2011, the Cadger family of Idaho uploaded a video onto YouTube of their home, smothered in nearly 40,000 Christmas lights, synced to the dubstep track ‘Equinox’ by Skrillex. There’s something deeply satisfying about dancing candy canes and Christmas trees set to dark, rapid-fire house music. It delights me to check in each year for the next leap in scale, beauty, complexity and firepower.

Work Christmas Parties Any mention of a work Christmas party has to be accompanied – by law – with a warning about a) The Photocopier; b) Pashing The Boss* and c) [Insert cliche]. As a freelancer, the Christmas party is the only time I get to hang out and connect with my peers. It’s gold standard mental health hygiene, and prevents me from needing to hold my own work party at home, where I stick a festive hat on the internet router. *Don’t worry Mr Ed, not going to happen.

Christmas Cracker Jokes I love them because they’re cleverer than they seem. The psychology is to unite the room with a groan, rather than leaving people feeling stupid for not getting the joke, or telling it badly. In service of inclusivity, here’s one I wrote: Q. What position does Father Christmas play on the soccer team? A. Santa Forward. You’re welcome.

Elf Sweaters I found a stupendously great elf jumper, with brass buttons, at a thrift shop. I cannot wait to wear it.

Tim Minchin His Christmas song ‘White Wine in the Sun’ is perfect. Every time I listen to the damn thing I cry. I’m crying right now. Damn you Tim Minchin.

Christmas Cards from People I Only Hear from at Christmas There’s a kind and dignified old lady, Mavis, who was my parents’ next-door neighbour. I got to know her and her husband, Alan, when visiting my folks, and I get a chatty card every year. Mavis makes them herself from scraps of fabric, pictures cut out from other cards and coloured paper. It arrives at the beginning of November. At first the cards were signed “Mavis and Alan”, now they’re just signed “Mavis”. I haven’t received this year’s yet, and my fingers are crossed it’s because she’s not quite made it to the post office.

The Queen’s Speech I don’t even need to watch it, I just like to know it’s there. The Queen’s been giving these addresses to the Commonwealth since her coronation, and my parents watched every single one. Nothing means Christmas to me like hearing HM say, “My husband and I”.

I Get to Miss My Parents For the past many years, as an only child with ageing parents, I was the one who made Christmas. I bought gifts, cooked, decorated, sent cards and got hold of their special treats (Mum liked marron glaces, Dad favoured brandy, pork pies and liqueur chocolates). Now they’re gone, and it’s fair to say that Christmas finds me at a loose and emotional end. But it’s the time of year I feel closest to them. I remember them because I miss them, and that’s Christmas for me now. An addictive ache, like a loose tooth. And a box of liqueur chocolates to myself.

Christmas. It begins with the presents, and ends with the presence. Have a good one.

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This article first appeared in Ed#500 of The Big Issue.