Monday, 21 December 2020


Christmas has always been about anticipation; a build-up to a magical event. Whether  you’re Christian or not the Christmas story and carols are wonderful. Through the year we drearily sing hymns like “We plough the fields and scatter” (enough to put anyone off farming.) At Christmas we have gems like “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” or “Adam lay ybounden” or the glorious prose/poetry of the King James Bible readings. 

Kings College Cambridge and their Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols becomes more glorious than the Royal Opera House or Glyndebourne for that afternoon of December 24th. Agnostics begrudgingly, albeit briefly, put aside their doubts.

Christmas presents are beautifully wrapped and ribboned - “I need your finger” I’m warned -  as a pair of socks resembles a treasure from Harrods with ribbons and bows whilst I anchor the ribbon with my finger.

Our house has lights and wreaths and music. We are celebrating. We are waiting. We are crossing our fingers that this is a special event and not a disappointment or a hangover.

Commercialisation has not spoilt Christmas although starting it in October seems a touch opportunist. It’d just that Christmas has become all about value as opposed to values.

It was Dr Mark Carney, ex-Governor of the Bank of England, in his recent Reith lectures who observed this distinction. Globally we have become obsessed with money and are forgetting the values that underpin our civilisation.

Two recent examples struck me: the recent IPO of a US business called DoorDash (a glorified Deliveroo). It has not recorded a profit since being founded in 2013 although it’s gained share from other home delivery companies. In December 8th its valuation amidst investor frenzy exceeded $68 billion. Funds like Citron, who’ve derided this business valuation, have cooled the price but this seemingly worthless company is still ‘hot’.

The second story is about the madness of ministers. The Right Honourable Robert Jenrick (who’s neither right nor particularly honourable given this proposal) has floated the idea of shifting our major celebration from Christmas to Easter so everyone gets to party in safety. 

Trouble is Bob, that plays havoc with the Christian calendar unless you are proposing ‘Speed Christianity’. From Birth to Crucifixion to Resurrection all in three days. Roast Turkey stuffed with hot cross buns. Lovely. No values there.

Back to anticipation on a more personal level. My car broke down. All battery life gone. As I waited and waited for the RAC I felt the increasing need to pee. But it was in the middle of a town and doing it in the street and a lamp post like a dog was a no-go strategy. From the first yearnings to eventually getting home was around four hours. But when I did it was worth waiting for.

Despite what promises to be a messed-up season of jollity because of the new strains of Covid that are spreading much more rapidly than expected, the sense of anticipation remains, hopes as well as fears:

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight

This painting by the Dutch artist Avercamp in the early 1600s is all about community, cold and fun. Yes, I hope we have snow. I hope we get outside and have some fun at last. 

Meanwhile, have a great, bibulous celebration, better than you’d feared and count your blessings. “Ding dong merrily on high”

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