Sophie Heawood: After the turkey, we gobbled down our principles

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The Independent Online

It's a clever thing that this Queen of ours does, handing out her honours as Christmas podges into New Year, December yawns into January, and a new year beckons us with its cold and merciless eyes. If ever there was a time of year when republicanism is doomed to fail, this is it. If I were the monarchy, I'd scrap those trifling birthday honours in June altogether, and make it all about 1 January. Doomsday.

All week long we've been sitting here, growing lardy and acquiescent in the calendar's equivalent of that gap between the Sunday papers and lunch. On the horizon: nothing but the wintry gaze of January, when the suicide and divorce rates peak, and you start the year with a list, an overdraft and a hangover.

The tax bill looms. Jean fastenings are navigated and found less forgiving than those of crumpled dressing gowns. We wonder if our old jobs and old lives will still fit us when we go back.

And then along comes the lady with the diamonds in her headdress, and the bright pink lips, and the steely monotone croak. And she says to a very select few, here you are, you are special, you are seen! She lands upon them like that great big finger on the National Lottery poster, promising that their great deeds will now be recognised, their face known, their British Airways booking form a veritable mess with all those extra bits slapped on their name. Arise, arise, arise!

Of course, at any other time of year you might laugh in the face of a wealthy unelected monarch giving you a pat on the head and a certificate containing some reference to her grandmother's stint as Empress of India (where thousands may have been slain but, hey, something pretty decent was done about the railways). You might say, hang on a regal minute, I work all year, pay for the polishing of your palaces, and you're asking me to get on my knees so you can say jolly well done for my work with the little people of your land? YOUR land? Are you going to touch me with a SWORD?

A person would be more likely to refuse if they did it in the middle of an Arab Spring, or when Guy Fawkes is making his murderous, autumnal presence felt. Or at any moment when you have some fire in your belly to refuse such a nonsense, and stand with your country and say, you know what, it is 2011, I am 43 years old, and I do not understand what Knights Bachelor actually means, and nor do I believe in St George or any of his dragons. I do not want to be a Commander of an Empire because this isn't Star Wars, and I don't deserve a medal for I am neither a soldier nor a seven-year-old.

But there is no fire in your belly at the turning of the years, because your belly is full of tuber starch and suet-based raisin products. There is no room for fire, because you are too stuffed and you are too torpid. There is no room for fire, because fire is the stuff of life, and the side effect of Christmas is a crushing sense of your own mortality, and how this is it, year in, year out until death, and you're back with your family who make you feel like a perpetual seven-year-old even though you're 43, so to hell with it – you may as well get a medal.

And so the list of people who refuse the honours – impressive though it is – never really grows long enough that we might shake off the frankly bonkers idea of royal family and empire and human pets winning prizes. We accept the honours. We need to feel special. Because we have grown so very very fat.