Christmas is several weeks away, which in high street years means it’s practically tomorrow night – so the decorations are up, the gifts are on sale and the stores are churning out commercials. Tesco’s effort features a succession of families preparing for Christmas dinner – straight, gay, Muslim – diverse but for the desire to stuff themselves to the point of spontaneous human combustion. It’s probably a fair description of modern Britain: a rainbow nation united by diabetes. Is it an accurate picture of Christmas though? Jesus isn’t mentioned once.
This column is normally about television shows, but the phenomenon of the Christ-less Christmas is too fascinating to pass over. I don’t get it. Maybe I’m eccentric, but I’ve always assumed that religious festivals should be treated as religious festivals and not as an excuse to get drunk on chocolate liqueurs. What if we secularised Diwali?
Or Yom Kippur? Supermarkets have pushed Ramadan promotions, so perhaps it’s only a matter of time – yet I suspect that Western societies are more likely to treat the holidays of minorities as sacred than their own Christian traditions.
Of course, my very use of the word “tradition” implies that Christmas is folklore rather than religious devotion, which, on the level of popular culture, it probably is. But isn’t folklore supposed to respect the root of things? Festival-goers usually pause, however briefly, and ask “why are we doing this?” We wear the poppy to remember the war dead. We burn the Guy to remember, remember the fifth of November. And we put aside the one day a year to remember the birth of Jesus.
What is the message of the Tesco’s ad? It finishes with the words “Everyone’s welcome”. That’s the liberal ideology in a nutshell: no prejudice, yes, but also no values, with the result that all meaning is lost. Whoever doubted that they were welcome to spend their money in a supermarket? Has Tesco got a dark history of homophobia? Nope. It’s just appropriating gay rights, Muslims and all other identities for the same reason it appropriates Christmas – to sell us stuff.
Break the cycle. Have a frugal Christmas, lightened by Christ.
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