Harriet Walker: Christmas is as close to crawling back into the womb as we’re likely to get

 

Share
Related Topics

I love Christmas but don’t worry, I’m not going to proselytise about it. I won’t pretend it’s any more than an excuse for gluttony and for corporations to sell people tat they don’t need. I go into the festive period with my eyes open, thanks very much, and I’m more fascinated than I am fanatical. But I do love it.

I don’t love it as much as my neighbours, mind. For them, the whole of December is one long Vegas of flashing reindeer and enviro-crime (this year the lights went up on 28 November, and three electric sleds litter the front garden like Blackpool illuminations that have detached and blown far from home).

I love Christmas because it’s a chance to regress. And I get time off work. But when you consider the things we like about the festive period (and most of us do, despite the teeth-chewing few who feel compelled at every turn to noisily tell us how they feel), it’s really very odd that anyone likes it at all.

At Christmas we’re taught to celebrate the sort of things we usually look down on, like being nice to each other and eating carbs. We all take a few steps back down the evolutionary ladder, as if Christmas is a little holiday to the 1950s. We feel the webs growing back between our toes and our amoebic sludge lapping at the edges of our designer outfits. Perhaps that’s why we like it: it’s as close to crawling back into the womb as we’re likely to get. It’s a window into the days when life was more simple.

We go home to our parents, whether we’re 24 or 44, and we do so not because we’re Generation Rent, with no room to swing a turkey let alone roast one, but because it’s Christmas, and that’s what you do. One of the things I enjoyed most last year, as I lay in my teenage bedroom, was browsing photos tweeted by people who’d usually describe themselves as grown-ups of the beds they were sleeping in that night. There were football-team duvet covers, Take That pillowcases, beds so narrow for one person that there was clearly no question of anyone joining them in it. “It feels reassuring that everyone else does it too,” I thought, as I turned off the bedside light, with its Laura Ashley lampshade that matches both the wallpaper and curtains fading into darkness.

We do all kinds of things at Christmas that feel delightfully retrogressive and counter-intuitive to the usual daily grind of ambition and steel teeth. We sit around in our jogging bottoms all day, not because we’re feckless, but because it’s sanctioned. We watch films we’ve seen before – often so many times that we’re able to quote wholesale from them. We are not required to be efficient.

We go to office parties not because they’re the most glamorous of occasions but because they’re precisely not that. For many of us, Christmas is an excuse to do all the things we wish we could do most of the time but can’t because it wouldn’t be cool or because we’d feel the dragging anxiety of our peers being better at life than we are.

Christmas is time out of real life. A special time during which you are able to use the word “Dickensian” to describe something positively, rather than the usual tyrannical educators, poor public health, the very grimness inherent in being British. Over Christmas, Dickensian means charming, quaint, cosy. Traditional, even. Christmas allows us to step out of our hip and cultivated progressive mindset and just enjoy things that are more comfortable, easier. A little smug perhaps. It’s the annual equivalent of putting on an ironic cardigan.

It’s a bit sad, really, that, for many of us, the things Christmas stands for should be in such antithesis to our quotidian. While the message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is something we’d happily get on board with all year round, we’re conditioned to find the very cosiness of the festive season cloying after a while. And I find that a bit depressing, because Christmas feels like the sort of life we should be living: with our family around us, with the emphasis on spending time doing things we care about rather than things we’re scared of or have been made to do by The Man.

You might think I sound like some old hippie. Maybe I do. But it was hippies who invented Christmas back in the days when they were known as pagans, so perhaps we owe them a thank you. Don’t be too cool for Christmas this year. Revel in it, in its gaucheness and its crapness. Take a picture of your childhood bed and put your paper hat on. I think you’ll find it’s a tonic.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

John Rentoul
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...