Christmas tales 2007: our favourite writers rant, reflect and reminisce
Pledge and pink champagne, By Jeanette Winterson
For weeks we've been exhorting you to spend, spend, spend, but now that the presents have (with any luck) been bought and the preparations are complete, it's time to ponder the deeper meaning of Christmas. We asked our favourite writers to rant, reflect or reminisce on a festive theme. As Ronald Hutton explains, the last thing you should feel at this time of year is guilty, so sit down with a mince pie and enjoy
Sunday 23 December 2007
To be alone or not to be alone that is the Christmas question.
This year, sprigs of holly crossed, come Christmas Eve, I shall roar up the fire with my bellows, shout at the cats to lock the cat flap, wind up the radio till my arm falls off, to make sure I have enough juice to get all the way through 90 minutes of "Nine Lessons and Carols", then it's feet on the fender, pink champagne in a bucket, a pile of books by the beaten-up leather armchair, and the goose in the slow oven of the Aga overnight. Oh yes, I am cooking my own goose this year. No family turkey for me.
It's not that I want to cry bah humbug, wear a bed-hat and be visited by spooks for failing to honour Christmas in my heart. I will honour it, but I can't forgo the miracle of 24 hours' peace and quiet not just my peace and quiet but the fact that the shops are shut and the trains don't run, and even the garage isn't serving petrol. Actually, they don't serve petrol any more do they except in India? We serve it to ourselves, they sell it, like the rest of life.
So what a moment, when we can actually stop selling things for a few hours, stop going out to buy things, stop going out at all. For this one day, the whole of Britain will shut up. It's irresistible.
Every year I try and spend Christmas alone, and it never happens. Last year I managed Christmas morning, and went running through the frost and mist and church bells, and stood at last, winded and warm, on a high hill with the fields below me and the smoke rising from the chimneys, and the dots of people at their doors, and a young fox that crossed me, pausing, then tail up, down the hedge-line, red against the blackthorn, his white chest like the page of a book.
I ran home, drained the goose, made the veg, put on a skirt, and although I was glad to see my friends, I was sorry too, because some of me couldn't leave the high hill, and the fox, and the sense of a day that few would see, like a secret. The one present that stays wrapped.
This year I have wrestled a day and a half from the happy duties of godchildren and dear friends, and nothing will part me from it I wouldn't go and have a sherry with Madonna if she asked me.
What I will do on the morning of Christmas Eve is get up early, and clean the house, earning the smug satisfaction that only a mop and bucket can bring (though Pledge has a peculiar cheering power all its own). I shall change my bed and put on the best heavy ironed bed-linen. I shall wash the windows with soapy water and torn up bits of The Independent, even it is raining, sleeting, or snowing.
I am the sort of person who likes rituals, and I make them up for myself to give shape to a time that is increasingly shapeless the baggy saggy loose acrylic knit of shopping, drinking and parties, seems like a waste of Christmas to me. I'll read the Bible stories again, because they are mysterious and beautiful, whether or not you believe, and I'll finish Dickens's A Christmas Carol, in bed on Christmas morning with a mince pie, a cat, and a cup of tea.
Then, in my clean washed striped nightshirt, I'll put on Handel's Messiah and get the first fire going. I'll feed the birds, and go running, and this time, when I get back to the holly wreath on the back door, I'll be free. There is great happiness in solitude.
Jeanette Winterson's latest novel is 'The Stone Gods' (Hamish Hamilton)
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre