There are many benefits to living in Beijing, one of them being you forget it’s Christmastime. In the West, the festive season is promoted in every form imaginable from late September. There is no escape as every advertising hoarding, publication, TV and radio channel is plastered with messages urging you to spend money on presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations and food.
What always amuses me is the deep-seated hatred many people have for Christmas despite its happy theme. I count myself among them.
Families are complicated things at the best of times and throwing members together against their will does not bode well. Especially when you add financial strain and alcohol to the mix.
The consumerism that has overtaken the original Christian holiday has long been fodder for satire. People are never more stressed or miserable than they are at this period of enforced happiness. If I were a Christian, I’d be hacked off with how an ancient tradition had been hijacked by private enterprise as a vehicle for excessive consumer spending.
Before this, perhaps Christmas was more enjoyable. Nowadays the season has turned into a grotesque contest of ego and excess.
Despite being marketed as a tradition, Christmas has changed its appearance and rites over the years. First, there’s the decorated tree in your house. This was made trendy by the Saxe-Coburg, sorry, Windsor royal family in Victorian times.
Then there’s the food. Most people eat turkey when a side of beef would have been traditional. The similarity to America’s Thanksgiving is not lost on me.
The biggest grievance I and many hold against the season is the pressure to spend more money than one can afford. Christmas? I call it Stressmass.
I attempted to stem the rage by focusing on the youngest family members. It helped for a while, but my niece is now an adult. Attempting to bring some joy to children is one of the few positives about Christmas. But I fear this is being lost as more learn at an earlier age that Santa Claus does not exist. The glut of presents they can receive also makes it harder for them to be appreciative.
I shall save the best till last: the music. The godforsaken, schmaltzy, saccharine music. Many artists have produced Christmas songs over the decades. But for some reason, radio stations and shops stick to the same dozen played on a loop.
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday by Wizzard has to be the worst. If hell exists, then that’s what it would be. Imagine an eternity of finding yourself trapped indoors by freezing weather. Your day is spent attempting to navigate your way around argumentative relatives, anxiety and disappointment over gifts, then climaxing with a food frenzy. By early evening, you and the others pass out in an alcoholic stupor on the sofa. As you drift off, the audio of a TV festive special is punctuated by group flatulence. The horror.
Amid it all, there are the true believers. Those who claim to love Christmas and try to enforce this view on everyone else. Anyone who disagrees with them is labeled a Scrooge no matter their argument. These people are the most terrifying of extremists. I hope they’re on a watch list.
What a relief it’s all over. Safely ensconced in the Middle Kingdom, I’m no longer hounded by carolers, dazzled by fairy lights or forced to grin at poorly chosen presents. But now it’s your turn: I would like to wish all readers of China Daily a happy Spring Festival!
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