Grant Walliser
Grant Walliser

Christmas is sick!

Christmas is sick.

Based largely on sun worship and Scandinavian pagan ritual, Christmas in some form has been with us for thousands of years. Christians muscled in on an existing winter solstice festival, slapped their prophet on the front cover, claimed a rather unlikely virgin birth and beat up anybody with their large holy armies that objected. We are now, therefore, lead to believe that Christmas celebrates the unconfirmed birth of one Jesus of Nazareth of which those impeccably organised, record-keeping Romans who occupied the Holy Land have no record. Whatever.

In modern times Christmas has evolved into the commodity-guzzling V8 monster we know it as today, fuelled by a nitrous mix of capitalism and consumerism. In my own brief lifetime, I have watched it mutate from a modest religious festival punctuated by family meals and gift-giving into a neon media onslaught complete with crass slogans of commercial goodwill, mass-media campaigns to sell product and fat old men in red suits paid by the hour to have fake conversations with confused children. Corporate greed eventually out-marketed, outpaced and outgunned the Christians and coated Christmas in a thick slime of biblical proportions and the plague seems set to renew its hold on our failing defences yet again this year.

Now don’t get me wrong, the basic human idea behind Christmas is not evil, it is not dangerous and it certainly keeps kids occupied and well-behaved for a few weeks preceding the 25th of December. I am not advocating, in the gravelly, serpentine tones of the Sheriff of Nottingham (Kevin Costner’s movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) that we “cancel Christmas”. The temptation, had I the power required, would be great but I like holidays too much.

I can see the inherent good in giving, the joy of receiving and the coming together of family. I see, at the same time, the perpetuation of opportunistic Christian slop, the vile consumption for which our disgusting species is famous and the very worst of human greed and contrived corporate celebration all rolled into one big putrid pantomime. The latter unfortunately kills the former for me and I want to run away to places untouched by both Christians and Corporates at this time of year. Tough to find.

Everywhere you look there are awkward company parties with people in stupid hats who would rather be somewhere else. Harried housewives ticking off their lists with screaming children hanging off them dominate the thronging shopping malls. I see relatives pulling into driveways they last graced a year ago with the same gifts in the same paper. I don’t see a whole bunch of real joy and giving. I really don’t. I see people happy to be on holiday but stressed and desperate to get the Christmas shopping done early before they are trampled in the turkey stampede.

While I am on the topic, I also wonder what the poor turkey ever did to warrant wholesale slaughter in the celebration of the birth of said Jesus. Like some barbaric stone-age tribe we make an animal sacrifice to our gods; something special and unique, that we don’t kill every day, to please them. I don’t know how many of these birds die in vain, frazzled and dried out in ovens and tossed into bins because nobody actually knows how long to cook a turkey for, but it is not a small number.

I digress.

The traditional red and white of Santa Claus was imposed on our cultural meme in 1931 by Coca-Cola in a corporate move so commercially brash and shameless that they now virtually own the Christmas brand and pantone colour scheme by association. Not only is the company not embarrassed by this sly, profit-motivated marketing move to dominate a religious festival and stamp their corporate colours on an icon, they are actually proud of it!

Enough to make you puke I should think. But so what? Why shouldn’t they get stuck in? Everybody else has. What could we do to change this damp little festival of gluttony wallowing in its own mercantile filth into something we could be proud of?

Here is a suggestion.

Instead of buying your husband some gadget or Micky Arthur’s new book, instead of buying your girlfriend her expensive perfume and your mother her Body Shop gift pack, instead of buying booze and CDs, DVDs, iPods, chocolates, Coca-Cola and all the crap that we buy every year over and over again, let’s do something that actually captures the intended festival spirit of Christmas, long before Coca-Cola did their job on it. Let’s develop a culture that gives to people and animals that actually need it.

It is critically important to understand that this is not a call for simple charity. I happen (paradoxically) to be against simple charity in principle, if not in raw practice, because it is not really a solution to the problem, just a temporary patch. This is a permanent cultural shift I am asking for here, a solution to the problem and not a seasonal gesture after which you slide back onto your butt. If everybody did this one simple, selfless thing every year at Christmas, every birthday, wedding and bar mitzvah, we would live in a different world — we really would.

I am not asking you to make a token donation or wear some silly armband as a fashion accessory to show you “care”. I am not asking for you to buy a red plastic thing and strap it to the front of your car in “solidarity” with anything or to wear a loud colour all day to raise awareness. I am asking you to collectively start a tectonic shift in our culture where we literally celebrate and feel good by uplifting others less fortunate or by solving problems in society instead of lavishing gifts on ourselves in a thinly disguised version of rolling in our own money.

Simply the fact that you are reading this online at the M&G site tells me you have the means to get involved here. It actually takes less time and effort than buying gifts, dried up fruit cake with artery-hardening icing, those mindless crackers and those highly annoying chocolate balls that are impossible to unwrap. Pop up to the nearest shop and haul some tins of food and a blanket home. Buy it online and have it delivered. Listen to the Flight of the Conchords and make a cash donation to save a starving Dalmatian!

Often the good souls that work for these charities will collect from you, busy and understaffed as they are. Alternatively why not get off your gammon-padded lard-arse and actually deliver it yourself. You might even get a real glow from real giving instead of that little crushing feeling you get when your mom fakes her surprise at the ornament your dad thought she wanted and told you to buy her and everyone knows it. What the hell is that all about actually? Tell your mother you love her and give her a massive bag of Epol and a cool card. Buy her flowers on a random day. Make her feel special by giving a kid a meal for her birthday.

By all means get together this Christmas and have a family day, have lunch, be together and, if you must, give each other gifts. I don’t want people glum and lifelessly sitting staring at each other trying to figure out how to deliver provisions to warehouses on Dec 25. Just make the real giving part of it too and we are on our way. As long as it forms a significant part of your festive season in some way, I am happy.

I am also not going to preach (unlike some this season) about where you should put your money. Personally, mine will go to animals because humans generally tend to disappoint me. My greater reasoning is that I believe all creatures to be equals. Every living thing has successfully evolved to take its place in our time yet we arrogantly think we are fit to rule them, little realising quite how much we need them. In doing so we slaughter, debase, abuse and impose our greed on these creatures when we alone have the capacity to see the alternatives and rise above that kind of behaviour.

I therefore believe that the animals that we have cast aside as waste during our momentous (and probably temporary) explosion to prominence are more deserving than we are ourselves since they do not partake in our frenzy of power-mongering and greed. They give us unconditional love, give their lives for our nourishment and die agonising deaths for appalling reasons, sometimes no better than a pathetically phallic and simplistic demand for rhino horn or cosmetics research.

They deserve better.

The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men. — Leonardo da Vinci, painter, engineer, musician, and scientist (1452-1519)

That time is approaching fast.

The NSPCA has to put down dogs and cats that can’t find homes out of necessity. They die. Their precious life is taken because people want to emigrate or move to smaller apartment or don’t bother to educate themselves on owning animals before they buy them. If the NSPCA had food and financial support, they could extend that time and offer animals a better chance. They could divert funds into setting up an online matching service for strays and potential owners. They could do more.

You make your own call.

The only thing I know for sure this year is that I would rather extend and add to the quality of the life of one animal than get some obligatory shiny Christmas gift that I don’t actually need on the 25th. If everybody felt the same way, and extended the idea as suggested, we may even start to solve the problem of neglected people and animals in our often cold society.

So that is what I will be doing this year. I am calling it Curemas because Christmas is sick and this is the cure. We do not need “Christ” in “Christmas”, just your understanding that tradition, religious or otherwise, is not always the best option; it can be improved and modified to suit our times. And while I am playing childishly with words here, have a birthday that’s worthwhile this year; call it a Worthday if you need to and get your guests to bring you the proof of payment of their online donation or a big bag of food and clothes.

Merry Curemas!

Happy Worthday to you!