Christmas has often been seen as the first lie we tell our children. Witness countless painful public debates at primary and lower high school level that are held on that, or similarly pointless ‘christmas-as-a-lie’ related subjects. Yet the first Christmas lie I heard in the week before Christmas was this one from the mouth of a suburban mother (and it wasn’t about Santa at all): “I’ve just got a Doctor’s appointment sweetie, but Grandmummy will look after you till then”. I know this was a lie because a few minutes earlier this same mother had said – quite loudly I might add – to her mother “I’m just dashing across the street for a spray tan and then can you bring the kids around the front?”.
If her child had not been so consumed with his apparently fascinating bottle of artificially coloured sugar water he might even have picked even have up on the discrepancy between the two stories. Then again, maybe I’m being a little too harsh, and the kid was lying in wait – like Columbo chomping on his bowl of chilli – intending to let his mother incriminate herself with her words, only to turn around a few scenes later with a “just one more thing..” and thus embarrass her into providing him with both a full confession and another bottle of artificially coloured sugar water.
Christmas isn’t the season where we lie to our children, the whole year is the time we lie to our children. Christmas is just the time when everybody’s in on it.
Because yes folks, I will confess, there’s very little that’s real about Christmas, even in places where Christmas actually takes place in winter. Christmas Day almost certainly wasn’t the actual day of Jesus’ birth, naughty kids have just as good a chance of getting presents as nice ones (perhaps even moreso), Christmas ‘sales’ will have you paying more for most things, and most of the gifts you give people will have been forgotten by next week.
But that’s not really the point is it? The point is Christmas is the one day when we – as a collective – get to create a world where there’s goodwill between all, nobody has to work, everybody gets presents, family feuds aren’t a thing, humanity’s generosity knows no bounds, trees can grow anywhere, and everybody has the right to a good time.
The real Christmas spirit isn’t about lying at all, it’s about imagining a better world and pretending it’s happening right now. To this account you can’t do Christmas half-assed. There’s no point in low-key. A point that is immediately apparent to anybody who does the obligatory tour of the Harrowfield Drive Christmas lights. As always, some of the people who go completely over the top look a little silly, but nowhere near as silly as the people who just string one or two lights across their windows, leaving people with the impression that they are planning on either turning their house into a Hamilton branch of the Masala Indian restaurant chain or using said lights as some sort of low-cost burglary prevention system.
More in keeping with the spirit of Christmas are those who buy several thousand Christmas lights on the cheap and carpet bomb their houses with them. Or the huge blinking Christmas tree (New Zealand’s largest) in Hamilton’s Garden Place, the unmissable Christmas themed lights on all the lamp-posts as you drive into the city, the stars and trees all over Garden place – not to mention the ice rink.
So no, we’re not exactly in the season of subtlety and decorum right about now. Then again, dreams aren’t really supposed to be all that sensible now are they?