Last Christmas was tough. I have gotten used to celebrating away from my family (we have been spread across three continents for the past few years) but their absence is especially keen at this time of year. I have gotten used to the temporary migration of roommates as they travel home to see their families, leaving me home alone. I was even pretty quick to recover from the gun-point mugging that relieved me of my debit card (an unpleasantness that would have been a nightmare before Christmas) and for a minute seemed sure to completely ruin the day.
Without church, or family, or friends, or a warm feeling of comfort and safety, all that was left to me last Christmas was what seems increasingly to be the centerpiece of many young urbanites’ celebrations. Retail therapy and escapism. Faced with this realisation I decided, “To hell with tradition!” and set forth to embrace the new mode entirely.
My first fear, upon losing my debit card, was that I would not be able to fill the emptiness of the day, but once the turbulence of the robbery subsided I remembered my Van Gogh graphic Capital One credit card, smiled and began to softly hum a Christmas carol. I slid it from my wallet and ran my eyes lovingly over the vibrant palate of Vincent’s Starry Night. How apt that, as I prepared to spend borrowed money, I should be reminded that the sky is the limit. I would go to the cinema, see two films in a row and drink scotch during both.
I fail to recall the names of either of the movies I saw that evening, but I can remember the wonderful feeling of having entered a theatre in broad daylight only to exit into the chill night air, still enveloped by the magical knowledge that I was part of a larger human story and that somehow the filmmaker had managed to put her/his finger on exactly what was so special and unique about my contribution to it. At that moment, if anyone had suggested trading places I would have turned them down in a heartbeat. Looking up through my whiskey blurred eyes I could see stars. It was a sign. Feeling all of a sudden, warm, expansive and benevolent I decided to go shopping. To have now and pay later, it’s a wonderful life.
People like to talk about money’s limits. They say you can’t buy love. Actually they might be right, but you can certainly buy Christmas. I was able to find a store that was open and bought myself a microwavable festive feast for one. I also picked up a bottle of plonk and a bar of chocolate. If the void is not there for stuffing, well, then I’ll be damned!
This year, faced with the prospect of similar circumstances – although hopefully without the mugging – I look forward to once again whipping out the credit card and filling the lonely, Godless, cheerless day with consumerist excess. Because if Christmas isn’t about laying aside one’s pretentious moral strictures and giving in to baser instincts, how is it different from every other day of the year?
*In case Christmas satire is another of England’s rare exports and this piece struck an overly sour note, have some fun trying to find the seven Christmas film titles cunningly secreted into the text. (Hint: All taken from Total Film’s 50 best list)