Thursday, 30 December 2010

So how are our Christmas traditions faring up??

This time last year, in my Bath Chronicle column, I wrote about the fact that everything about Christmas revolves around the word “tradition”.

Thanks to the pagan god of tradition at this time of year we do things we don’t want to do, we eat things we don’t want to eat and we see people we don’t want to see. And we justify it all by saying “well, it’s Christmas…”.

And so, because I am at heart a traditional chap, I will do what I did in this column/blog last year and review afresh how well our “traditions” are holding up. So yes, I have created a new tradition. To use this column to review our traditions. In a traditional kind of way. So which tradition is safe? Which is under treat? And have those evil, food-of-the-devil sprouts survived another 12 months? Read on…

Christmas cards – As regular readers will know I was seriously worried about this tradition dying out a few weeks ago. My Christmas card intake had fallen as dramatically as Gordon Brown’s this year and I thought our obsession with “witty” emails full of dancing gnomes with colleagues’ faces on them might be killing this tradition off totally. But in the last week or so leading up to the big day I noticed far more cards flying around. Maybe the fact that many shops were selling them so cheap helped but the cards definitely rallied. Hang in there, cards! Tradition survival rating ** (but looked like a single star just a couple of weeks ago)

Christmas dinner – Still as popular as ever from what I can see despite the obvious drawbacks that:

a) turkeys take forever to cook/thaw/slaughter;
b) sprouts;
c) the average dinner has more calories than four bucket loads of lard;
d) most people prefer curries.
Something tells me this could be one of the last traditions to die out.
Tradition survival rating *****

Carol services/Nativity – I said last year these were doing remarkably well and I repeat that again. From the big high-profile services like the Chronicle’s own abbey service through to the smallest Nativity in the smallest primary school we have been belting out “no crib for a bed” and admiring four-year-olds playing the role of fifth shepherd from the left for many weeks. One thing though – whatever happened to door-to-door carol singers? They appear to have gone the same way as door-to-door encyclopaedia salesmen. Were they perchance related? Tradition survival rating ***** (but door to door singers just *)
Christmas presents – The ghost of Christmas present seems to be very much alive and expensive. This year’s big hit, apparently, was The Kindle where you get the chance to read a book on a tiny computer screen. Instead of, err, in a much cheaper, much better presented thing called “a book”. One thing that helped the bank-balance-killing-present-buying-frenzy this year is that many shops decided that they would have their Boxing Day sales in about November – and never stopped. That isn’t to say we won’t all have spent far too much and will be forced to hide from the postman when the credit card bills arrive but it does mean the tradition started all those years ago by three wise men on camels remains strong. Although, of course, that tradition hasn’t been totally kept up. After all, when was the last time you bought your auntie some myrrh?
Tradition survival rating ****

Santa – The old fella had another strong year. He appeared in so many places at so many times (magic isn’t it?) and then proceeded to have a cracking Christmas night by all accounts. Nowadays, you can track his movements online but knowing the fast pace he must have to do on December 25 I hope the speed cameras weren’t also monitoring him. Rumour has it he is now enjoying a well-earned break looking at his Kindle and thinking “how on earth is this better than a book?”
Tradition survival rating ****

Beating the Aussies to win the Ashes – A new tradition but what a fantastic one! Our woeful England football team were a national embarrassment in the summer but our cricketers have put a sporting smile on all our faces. Well done England. And, ahem, South Africa. Tradition survival rating: let’s hope it’s a *****

Christmas TV – Aaah. the biggie. For most people Christmas doesn’t start until you see the festive listings and there is no doubt that many people will have watched more TV over the past few days than they will for the next few weeks. By and large if my office is anything to go by the feeling was one of being “underwhelmed”.
However, there were some highlights.

Upstairs Downstairs was definitely one of them – a sumptuous, feel-good three-parter which looked and felt as good as you hoped it would. Populated by beautiful people in a beautiful setting, it was at times quite, well, beautiful and even though the plot had as many holes as Jim Royle’s vest it was still a triumph. Elsewhere the new David Walliams/Matt Lucas comedy Come Fly With Me had its funny moments, The Royle Family had real charm and the soaps had the usual cheery mixture of fights, break-ups and ludicrous plot lines. So no change there then. Perhaps the biggest festive treat came from an unexpected source – a series of short movies on Sky called Christmas Crackers where well-known comedians were given 15-minute shorts to tell semi-autobiographical stories about the festive period. Catherine Tate’s and Bath’s own Julia Davis were particularly good as was Stephen Fry’s charming recounting of a story he told at the Forum in Bath about the way he tried to get a young, vulnerable boy to take the rap for him for a sweet-buying infringement at his school. Lovely.
Tradition survival rating *** (Still important – but could do better)

Jesus – The reason for the season put in another decent shift this year. Attempts to totally marginalise him from the booze-gifts-and-family-rows frenzy didn’t quite succeed and He remains a key player at this time of year. And I never received a single “winterval” card either. Progress!
Tradition survival rating *****

This column looking at traditions – Well it is now in its second year – and it is going strong. Will it survive another 12 months? Will this become a tradition as strong as the Top of the Pops Special or as weak as the Russ Abbot Christmas Show? Only time will tell.
Tradition survival rating ** (one for each completed year)

Have a great new year folks and I hope whatever tradition you observe on December 31 is one you enjoy. Now where is my myrrh...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you ever received a Winterval card?
Or even actually seen one?

My suspicion is that the 'Winterval threat' is just another urban myth.