Friday, December 2, 2022

Bah Humbug!

by Abir

This week we’ve been asked to talk about our favourite holiday memories.


Morning. Friday again, eh? Another week all but over. I hope you’ve achieved more than I have in that time. I seem to have spent a lot of it scanning Black Friday sales and buying things that I convinced myself I really needed but which, now they’re here, I find almost completely surplus to requirements. For instance I am writing this using a new keyboard which I’m having difficulty getting used to because the keys are approximately 2mm further spaced than on my former keyboard and every sentence takes about an hour to write because of all the spelling mistakes. 


I’m also staring at a brand new monitor which is frankly too big for my desk, so now I’m contemplating buying a bigger desk, but that’ll be too big for the room and so then I’ll need to either build an extension or buy a bigger house and doing either of those in this economy will bankrupt me. My life is a dumpster fire.


Right, so where were we? That’s right, favourite holiday memories. The first thing to say is that I actually wrote a version of this last Tuesday, well in advance of posting time. However, because my colleagues on this blog are mainly north Americans, they have no real concept of the English language. You see, outside of the North American continent, the word ‘holidays’ refers to pretty much any holiday you can think of – mainly sunny summer holidays. When people ask you – ‘What did you do in the holidays?’ they generally mean – what did you do last summer, and if you’re British, the answer is normally, ‘I went to Europe, got drunk and sunburned, and boorishly acted like I owned the place.’ If you want to know what someone did at Christmas, you ask: ‘I say, dear boy, what japes did you get up to during the Yuletide?’ ‘Note: the words: festive season or Christmascan be substituted for Yuletide, but only if you’re common. This is all a long way of saying that I wrote a blog post about my summer holidays instead of the Christmas holidays, for which the blame squarely lies with my north American colleagues, and now I’m having to re-write it at 8am on a Friday morning.


For the budding writers among you looking for writing tips, the lesson you should take from this is: Never do anything until the very last minute. There’s really no point.


Right. So I guess I’d better make some stuff up about Christmas. The first thing to say is that I don’t understand the nervousness about calling it Christmas. It’s Christmas. Call it that. I say that as the son of Hindus. Non Christians shouldn’t (and I think 99% of them aren’t) worried or offended by you calling Christmas Christmas. I know that Hannukah is at the same time, and that’ fine, and I know the term ‘holidays’ is technically more inclusive, but I feel as though you lose something when you make it generic. The thing I hate most is when people start calling it Xmas. What’s that about? Removing Christ from Christmas and replacing him with an X. That’s bonkers. So why do you do it?


Anyway, you can tell I haven’t had my coffee yet. 


Let me tell you about Christmases in my house when I was growing up. As I said, we’re Hindus, so you’d think we wouldn’t be that into Christmas, but you’d be wrong. My family (and my community) are pretty much happy to join in with any festivity that involves a lot of food and alcohol. Plus, Christmas has always been well celebrated in Calcutta, the city of my parents’ origins, on account of the perfidious British influence there for the last two hundred years. So Christmas was no big surprise to my parents. What was surprising was the sight of snow. The first time my dad saw it snowing, he asked a policeman what was going on.


So yeah, we celebrated Christmas in the 70s and 80s in much the same way as our white neighbours, with crackers and turkey and presents under a plastic tree, followed by hours in front of the TV watching Star Wars and Indiana Jones. The only thing we didn’t do was go to the midnight church services.


Christmas has always been a special time in the year for me, and probably the happiest. Many of my best childhood memories centre around that time – be it the parties or the presents, and growing up, Christmas was always a time to take stock and be thankful. 

Every year, we are visited by Indian Santa


Now, in middle age, I try to recreate that wonder of Christmas for my boys, but it doesn’t quite feel the same. On another level though, their Christmases are more ‘authentically British’ than mine were – perversely because my wife is South African and mad about everything twee and British. She loves nothing more than having a cream tea in front of an open fire (even in July). She insists we have a ‘traditional’ British Christmas, with a real tree (waste of money) and stockings over the fireplace (pointless) and all the other festive crap.

I mean really, what is the point of this?

 Fortunately even she draws the line at a traditional British Christmas lunch. I mean it’s so bloody bland. Turkey is the driest, most tasteless meat there is. Then there’s Brussels sprouts, which are a complete abomination – creating them was not God’s finest hour, and then, the worst of the lot: Bread sauce. 




A sauce…made of bread. Think about that for a moment.


Only the British could have invented something so totally without flavour.


Of course, my wife tried making it, and for several years she persisted in forcing it upon us, but even she has had to admit defeat. Now our Christmas dinners feature better dishes and more spice, which is what I think the baby Jesus in the Middle East would have wanted. After all, what is Christmas without the traditional Christmas Eve biryani?


Happy holidays to you all.

Obligatory shot of us imprisoned in a Christmas bauble

1 comment:

Catriona McPherson said...

Thank you! It is so weird here - and I say that after 12 years - that Christmas is so Christian. I'm not sure anyone ever believes me that an island full of godless heathens all celebrate Christmas and call it Christmas and nobody gets ruffled. E.g. my friends in Leeds - mum Jewish, dad Muslim - kid played Mary in the school Nativity. All fine.