Why I no longer say Bah Humbug! to Christmas time
I think it was when I saw the Radio Times entry 'add some sparkle to your Christmas with Canadian crooner Michael Buble in his log cabin studio set' – and felt nothing but a crackling little fire in my belly – that I realised what I've become; a gullible, over-eager, undiscerning consumer of all things Christmas. A sucker. And I couldn't be happier.
There was a time when I was an ultra-cool, detached Christmas rebel. I see my younger self like Marlon Brando in The Wild One (though with more mascara), leaning nonchalantly against the wall nearest the door, observing Christmas with an air of lofty, derisory amusement, ready at any minute to walk out and leave the squares to it.
I mocked anything that involved 'joining in', especially if I was being cajoled by hopeful hearty types who bought into the idea of communal expressions of joy. I thought those people were delusional losers. I assumed they didn't get that most people were laughing at them behind their backs. Now I watch such people trying to rouse a bunch of reluctant teenage carol singers and I see that they know there are people laughing at them, and they just push on anyway because they believe in something bigger. And I think they're pretty heroic. If I was bolder I'd just go and hug them.
Perhaps it's my age. Perhaps it's my children. Perhaps its understanding more about death and loss than I did in my twenties. Or maybe those people who say the global village is less connected on ground level than it used to be before technology gave us the gift of 24/7 connectivity are onto something.
But from the moment the clocks go back at the end of October and those evil exploitative shopkeepers get the fairy lights and Slade CDs out, I embrace the Christmas spirit like the brother I never had but always wished for. Come now Christmas, come as soon as you can. My enthusiasm for Christmas is unwavering and all-embracing. The usual standards go out the window. Fake snow out of a can all over my windows? Cool. A beaming Michael Ball duetting with a snowman? Love it. A Canadian crooner in a faked-up 'log cabin studio set'? Crack open the Baileys.
I love any Christmas-related change to routine. It reminds me of those happiest of heady days, the last few days of winter term, when homework stopped and all you did at school was play games, watch films and make paper snowflakes. So one-off TV specials are good (especially Doctor Who obviously), as is midnight mass, late night shopping, long boozy lunches and coffee shops suddenly selling gingerbread lattes and mince pies.
I also welcome anything which upholds old-school Christmas traditions – crackers, charades, Christmas cards, carol singing from Kings College Cambridge, watching It's a Wonderful Life. And I support the creation of new traditions, like Christmas day iPod playlists, the unveiling of the new John Lewis advert, the beckoning of a new three-part Sherlock, and watching Elf. And reading the last page of James Joyce's The Dead out loud to your briefly indulgent, if nonplussed, children. Trying not to cry.
I imagine the oppressive darkness of a British winter without Christmas lights, without city squares filled with colourful German markets, fairground rides and supermarkets swinging to the sound of The Pogues and Bing Crosby. And I hope if you know anyone who might be lonely at Christmas you find a way to bring them in. Even if you all you have to offer is a turkey sandwich and Michael Ball on the telly. Everything counts.'If you know anyone who might be lonely at Christmas, find a way to bring them in.'