25 December 2010

On being a person and a parent in Christmas time


I have often half-jokingly considered myself as the youngest grumpy old man out there. While I have no evidence that there aren’t anyone younger than me – and I am sure there is – I am of the opinion that my assessment doesn’t quite capture me as a person either way. So I thought, why not, to use some of my precious Christmas time to elaborate why do I so dislike the Christmas time (even the word processing software insists on starting the bleeding thing with capital letter as if to further validate its significance – no need, people and markets do pretty good job at highlighting it already).

Christmas is like annual wedding which has to go right and therefore never really will. So much pressure has been attached to it and we are all regardless of our beliefs expected to participate in the effortful fun which follows the seasonal etiquette that smells a bit more than a hint of as if it was designed by the people who are trying to sell us something. It’s sponsored by Coca Cola much like Football World Cup and apartheid was and much like weddings where your love is measured by the menu on the day, size of the church in which teachings you may or may not subscribe to and which role in history you have chosen to either ignore or view very selectively and of course – the ring. Oh how I dislike the idea of wedding ring. My sentiments to my wife cannot be expressed through any mineral stolen from the African land – I don’t think she would like the idea either – just like my feelings towards my son cannot be measured by the size of a tree in the corner of our living room. Still, while there aren't any rings and my wife wore a beautiful red dress instead of white, there is a small tree at ours this year.

It's not really a question of purposefully going against anything. It's not a protest, but rather I feel that it'd be somewhat unlikely that how person feels and is, is exactly like something else out there already existing. It is not a criticism towards anyone who likes Christmases and weddings – it is about not necessarily having to if that is how one feels.

My son is agnostic. He is just under four so I can’t really imagine him having any meaningful personal thoughts on religions or spirituality. Just like he doesn’t have a membership card to a communist party, rifle association or any organisation me and my wife don’t belong to. Or, to any of the ones that we do belong to (although I don’t think we belong to any organised group). He doesn’t have a favourite football team either. He just likes to watch it from telly sometimes. So he is very much undecided as far as most things go. Not everything though. He is very particular about his favourite children’s programmes and games he likes to play. Since he is nearly four that is the kind of stuff he is into. So when it comes to religion he is aware of it a bit – he went to Moslem school for a while although never participated to the religious classes and many of his relatives are Christians. I tell him sometimes when there is talk of Jesus or something like that, that some people believe in this kind of thing and when it comes to monsters I just tell him that they don’t exist – no need to be afraid. But with Father Christmas it’s a whole another thing. The story, as outrageously as it has been put together, is seemingly very elaborate and specific. I keep on getting all these additional questions about it which I can’t really answer and I wonder if I am expected to lie. Just come up with something. Isn’t that a bit confusing? I know it’s the convention, but I am talking about confusing. Or is it? Surely the child is more important than fizzy-drink sponsored globetrotter?

When our son was very young my wife and I thought that the difference between Santa and Jesus is that any sensible parent expects their child to snap out of Santa belief at some age and I guess unlike with Jesus one gets rather worried if your twenty-something still expects some coke-red well-eaten beardy fellow to travel the world once a year towards the end of it. So we thought that let’s let that fable live – after all, that is what it is. But now I am finding myself wondering that isn’t it enough for my child to have a nice time with a family and a some presents and things like that. You know – as a part of culture or just for no particular reason. Wouldn’t it be okay? Of course it would. I don’t think it would compromise his childhood or innocence. Or even if the story of Father Christmas would be told just as a story like any other and not like “and here he is now” kind of seasonal extravaganza. So yes, definitely it would be fine to just have a good old time in December listening to good music (music generally attached to this time rarely is that to me) and eating nice food that we like (I and my wife are vegetarians – not our son who doesn’t have an opinion on such thing yet). It’s all just fine, but I must admit that the pressure of the dominant culture in its uncompromising pseudo-harmony is overwhelming even to a self-proclaimed individual human being this time of year. It goes to show that man’s got a long way to go.

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