astatine210: (Nockery Christmas)

I like Christmas as much as the next bloke. Really. I've plenty of happy childhood memories regarding Christmas, and I aim to enjoy myself this time 'round too. My family are basically a good lot, and as long as they respect my space we get along fine.

'Course, that won't stop me from complaining. What could?

Complaint №1: Christmas Music In Shops

Extensive research from the Institute For Stating The Bleeding Obvious has revealed (or would reveal, if anyone took ten minutes to check) the following:

  1. Repeatedly hearing the same music is irritating. It's the aural equivalent of Chinese Water Torture.
  2. Irritated people do not do their jobs as well as they could.
  3. Shops with highly irritated staff do not shift goods as well as shops with less irritated staff (Shops without irritated staff are rare, as they have to deal with the general public on a daily basis).
  4. Customers will spend more time in a shop that does not irritate them.
  5. The more time a customer spends in a shop, the more likely it is that they will buy something.
  6. Hearing the same bloody song list as all the other shops are playing is irritating, and therefore more likely to drive the customer away.

Conclusion: There is little or no point to constantly playing "Christmas Music" in a shop. Everyone who celebrates Christmas bloody well knows what time of year it is, because it's sodding cold outside and you've strewn the place with tinsel. We're not going to forget.

Complaint №2: Okay, okay, everyone knows.

True story:

Andy Grayling and Pete Bickerson were a couple of intrepid Royal Marines who, in late 1998, decided to go on a hiking expedition in a remote part of Papua New Guinea. Eager to see some of the last great mountain rainforest on Earth before global warming, illegal logging and the Y2K bug took its toll, they armed themselves with the best survival gear their quartermaster would turn a blind eye to and went to climb the green and craggy slopes of the Moresby Range.

Despite their elite forces training in jungle environments on every continent (including Antarctica, for which NATO specially maintains a greenhouse) they became lost within a week. The GPS tracker shorted out; radios became sodden and worthless in the constant humidity; the Wagon Wheels that Bickerson had packed just weren't quite as big as they'd remembered. Half-starved and hallucinating, they blundered into a village unmentioned on any map. Heads on posts, mud and straw huts, local population with enough body piercings to keep Camden Market in business for a fortnight. After a few tense minutes of being sized up by the locals, they began to get their point across with sign language. Important phrases like “We've come on holiday by mistake”, “It was all a horrible misunderstanding”, and “Would you like this nice flag in exchange for some of that roasted cassowary, Sir?”.

In a surprise triumph of diplomacy over the better instincts of the locals, Grayling and Bickerson found themselves sat by the village fire that evening, munching on roasted cassowary, boiled roots, and some oddly familiar large green buds. For the first time in weeks, Grayling remembered what time of year it was.

“It's just like Christmas dinner, innit?” he joked. “Except without all that Christianity bollocks.”

To his surprise, the village elder turned 'round and said:

“Ah, come on. Christmas isn't really a Christian festival, is it? It's just a traditional European pagan midwinter festival that was hijacked by the Church because they couldn't get rid of it. Same as Easter.”

The old man shrugged and went back to munching on his dinner. The marines stared at each other slack-jawed for ten minutes until Brian Hanrahan and John Simpson came crashing out of the undergrowth and continued their fistfight over just how many bloody Harriers they'd seen over Goose Green.

Grayling and Bickerson were hauled back to Blighty so quickly that they never clapped eyes on the village elder again - although the tree under which he was sat later became the counter of a Fair Trade shop in Stevenage.

Gentle reader, there is a point to this story. Much as I respect - hell, claim - the right to be a pedantic smartarse, it is worth remembering that bloody everyone knows that Christmas is a pre-Christian midwinter festival overlaid with various westernised Christian imagery.

Yes, everyone.

Atheists and agnostics claim it as evidence that organised religion's at least a little bit dodgy. Neo-pagans get such a smug kick out of the concept so it sticks in the mind, and most Christians do tend to know about it because they learnt all about it at school (and figure you have to celebrate Christ's birth at some point, so winter's as good a time as any). There are, of course, a hard core of ignorant fundamentalists who'll stick their fingers in their ears and sing the rousing carol ‘la la la la, I can't hear you, you're going to burn in hell’ when you broach the subject - but who cares about them? And then there are the followers of other religions, who rather sensibly don't give a toss.

Alright, not quite everyone. It just feels like it.

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astatine210

March 2007

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