"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
I hate Christmas. All right, I’m the Grinch. Some tell me “get over it”. After all, it is one day a year. That’s the problem it’s not only one day. The bloody repetitive godawful jingles started in mid-November.
Let’s be clear about a few things. Jesus Christ was not born anytime around the 25th December. Christmas as a festival existed long before any births took place in the greater Bethlehem area. The bible is silent on when JC popped into the world.
All it tells us is that Mary and Joseph travelled by the express bus from Nazareth to Bethlehem to take part in a census. Earlier, Mary had been visited by the Angel Gabriel to tell her she's carrying the son of God. Joseph being a simple sort accepted that. The child was delivered in a stable because they forgot to book a hotel on Trivago.
This year, as with every year, religious leaders will once again spout forth against the commercialisation of Christmas. In the process, they’ll ignore the fact they stole Christmas from the Pagans. In the fourth century, some bloke called Pope Julius I chose the 25th December as the date of birth for Jesus. He took the Pagan festival, rebranded it and then set about spreading the word. It took until the end of the eighth century for Christmas to catch on across Europe. By the way, Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on 7th January.
So the whole Christian thing is a fabrication or clever marketing - aren’t these the same thing? Oliver Cromwell was having none of it. In 1644 he banned Christmas. The collective gaiety and compulsory joy being too much for grouchy Oliver. He had a point.
The modern Christmas is a product of Victorian shaping, with a massive dash of product placement. For example, Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree. Incidentally, it’s a myth that the talented people at Coca-Cola created Father Christmas as a marketing ploy. Instead, Santa is a composite figure. He’s a Frankenstein, taking bits from Saint Nicholas and other winter festive deities.
As a child, I needed sedating on Christmas Eve. I heard Father Christmas land on our roof. Maybe I was delusional given that Mum had prescribed a dose of Aspirin to calm me. The blood loss from a bleeding stomach contributed to my delirious state. Indeed, I could hear Santa’s words as he assembled our toys at the base of the Christmas Tree … “..fucked up bloody thing never come down...”. Santa sounded cross. That’s no surprise with all those toys to deliver at such short notice.
We’d be out of bed at 5 am - run downstairs full of expectation to receive the perfect gift for the season of love and peace - a Johnny Seven gun. It had a pistol, a rifle, a grenade launcher, plus an armour piecing shell. With all that Baby Jesus could rule the world.
Later on comes purgatory. We’re forced to visit the grandparents, Stan and Phillis. This annual pilgrimage to the house of silent tension is in sufferance. We put on our best clothes, behave and don’t touch the ornaments. They made us welcome with “Eat the raisins, not just the nuts”.
The only saving grace was her trifle. A layered delight of custard, strawberries, cream and enough sugar to cause diabetic shock. It’s the reason we tolerated the whole painful saga. They also had a colour TV before anyone else, so that compensated a bit. Come on; this was before video games or the Internet. Our world was black and white.
If you want to understand Christmas, forget the whole Christian narrative. These days it’s moved beyond that. How else do you explain that Taoists and affirmed Buddhists are getting in on the act here in Hong Kong? Of course, there is the commercial side as manufacturers and marketers work with relentless energy to move their stuff.
Advertising kicks into overdrive as we're assailed by the latest must-have gadget or unique item. Much of it gets forgotten or put aside within days. In the UK an estimated £355 million worth of unwanted Christmas gifts were returned in 2016. Add to that the staggering 74 million minced pies that end up in landfills. Christmas is starting to look like an ecological disaster.
Research indicates that as many as 20% of folks find Christmas overwhelming. The compulsory need to be jolly and take part in every aspect of Christmas sometimes is draining. The overspending, anxiety over gift giving and family tensions can all boil over. A 'Facetime' Christmas may be the answer.
So what’s the point? In answer to the question, you have time to reflect. The passing of the seasons, the onward motion of life paused for a moment. I’m spending my festive season with the wife, daughters and one farting dog. I’ll get a bottle of single malt, watch ‘Love Actually’ and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ on a loop. There is an eternal joy in being with family. I love Christmas.
May your God be with you, but more importantly your family. Did I mention I’ll be getting a decent single malt?
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.