my first and only christmas & january in retail. ten years ago! holding back on editing out the phrases that are making me cringe for their earnestness. such serious word choices I used…
I’m feeling affected by the January blues, the hangover from the spree of consumerism, dutiful jollity and general excess that takes place in the name of Christmas. I have been working in the peculiar place that is the County Stores since the end of October, and everything has been overshadowed by the hype towards Christmas, battling every last penny from our customers with a smile and an “after all, it is Christmas”, and now the deadness as people live off their leftovers, groan at the thought of turkey- and at the end of the month the credit card bills will come through and everyone will cut back even further.
On the 27th we all asked each other “Good Christmas?” and replied “yes, it was lovely for the children”, “it’s gone too quick”, “yeeeah” or occasionally even “well, it’s over for another year isn’t it” or a mere grunt. Depending on how cynical an approach one takes the first answer is either charming, or else it indicates a sinister practice of indoctrinating the next generation, so that they too will continue in their turn the practice of Christmas and all that goes with it. After all, no one wants to appear to be a grouch- not giving cards or presents seems like a lack of generosity and goodwill, rather than being a simple desire to avoid a little commercialised gesture. This year I distributed a virtual “card”, well a photo of the Christmas cake I made with a message, using the medium of facebook. Not very meaningful, but some sort of gesture that can be appreciated if desired, but that isn’t swelling Clinton Card’s profits.
The idea that Christmas goes too quick comes from all the pre Christmas buildup. I remember being disgusted at seeing a sign outside a pub chain at the beginning of September saying “Book now for Christmas”. The tradition in my house is to decorate the house on Christmas Eve, and leave it decorated up to and including the 6th of January. This counteracts the commercial approach- to start selling before November and to start the sales on Boxing Day. Unfortunately this year I have been exposed to both sides of Christmas, so I have been more overexposed than usual.
At some point during the last few years Christmas has changed for me. It used to be a purely positive occasion, for general niceness and for the whole family to spend a day cooking. However, now it feels as if Christmas is an effort- in order to try to recapture simple enjoyment of Christmas all the old traditions must be followed, as if the routine is what matters. I like the rituals. At any rate, I remember liking and being excited by them, and I do not want to stop enjoying them. Christmas becomes one huge yearning to reconstruct the joy of childhood.
On the radio they had attempted to present some cheerful stories to counter the post Christmas depression. “For one man Christmas is not over,” they reported cheerily. “Mr Evans (or Mr Christmas as he is known), a divorced engineer, has celebrated Christmas everyday for the last 15 years …”.
Poor chap. To cling onto “this is a happy thing. Christmas is happy”, repeating it every day. The notion that this might cheer up the January gloom depressed me intensely in its focus on one festival as ‘happy’ as a way to ignore the grimness of the state of life in the world.
Interest rates are being cut to counteract an increase in December consumer spending of only 2.3% on last year. How can it be possible to believe that an economy based on a credit bubble driven by the fetishisation of happiness at Christmas at the expense of attention to happiness year round is either sustainable or desirable?