The festering season, by Mark Simpson

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

You know that queasy, hungover, fed-up-to-the-gills feeling of not knowing what day of the week it is or what year? Wondering whether the banks will be open or not and whether you can be bothered to brave the freezing crowds and the thronging fog and exchange those fluffy Bhs slippers you were given by your niece for something more fetching? That sense of quietly increasing secret dread at the imminent approach of another bout of slightly hysterical binge-drinking and smiling at people you'd much rather spit in the eye?

Yes, the festering season is nearly upon us that fag-end, cold-turkey, limbo-time between Christmas and New Year that cruelly drags out the whole experience, and the year, by another four days and feels like a fortnight of 1970s Sundays.

The sheer numbing tedium and disorientation of the festering season drives people to do crazy things like accepting invitations to visit friends and relatives you haven't seen for ages, only to remember, too late, that the reason it's been so long is that you don't actually like them. Even worse, some people find themselves spending time with their partners.

The festering season is clearly a major social problem that needs an urgent solution. Shockingly, the major political parties have yet to take this issue seriously I've checked and can confirm that neither the Conservative, Labour or Lib-Dem manifestos propose legislation to deal with the festering season.

Fortunately, the solution is as clear as the night Good King Wenceslas looked out. What's needed is a Christmas Anschluss: a union of Christmas and New Year. For far too long, Christmas and New Year have been artificially divorced by that demoralising boundary period in between. Soaked in booze and regrets, festooned with goodwill and domestics, they obviously deserve one another. It's time to bring them together.

By moving New Year's Eve to Boxing Day (what is Boxing Day for, anyway?), we can eliminate that date-nibbling, walnut-cracking period spent wondering whether to treat ourselves to another sweet sherry or not. We can all get completely rat-arsed on Christmas Eve and not sober up until New Year's Day. One moment you're putting out milk and mince-pies for Santa, the next you're waking up on someone's sofa with an end-of-the-world hangover, your pants around your head, smelling of candied fruit and vomit. Hello, 2008!

Alternatively and this happens to be my personal preference New Year could be run parallel with Christmas. Not only does this shorten the whole experience down to a more humane and liver-sparing two days, it gives you the perfect get-out to spare the feelings of those who you don't want to spend either event with, as well as providing those people who just don't like either Christmas or New Year or both the opportunity to opt out completely.

"Oh, sorry," you'd say, "I'd love to come to yours and gnaw my leg off with frustration this Christmas but unfortunately I can't I'm doing New Year this year."

Or, alternatively, "Oh, that's a shame, I'd adore to come out with you and the gang on New Year's Eve and shout 'HAPPY NEW YEAR!!' at strangers so aggressively that I manage to cover them in gob even though they're on the other side of the street, but I've already promised to do Christmas this time."

Mark Simpson is the author of 'Saint Morrissey' (SAF Publishing)

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