My nickname at work has always been Scrooge. Not I hope because I'm mean, but because I think that what we call Christmas, is a great big commercial con.
Its real function is, or rather was, to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Christian Messiah. Indeed its name comes from the Old and Middle English 'Cristes Maesse' (derived from both Greek and Latin) meaning a Mass for Christ. It dates to the 11th century.
It is celebrated across the world in Christian and non-Christian countries alike (although I've never really worked out how a country can be Christian or any other religion). It has other names, of course. It is known as Nativity (birth, Old French), Yuletide (Old English), Midne Winter [or Midwinter] (Anglo Saxon) and of course Noël (French).
It's highly unlikely that December 25 is the actual date of the birth of Christ, indeed scholars think that that event may have taken place somewhere around October, based on comparisons with the date of birth of John the Baptist. And Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate it on January 6 because of the confusions between the calendars.
It may be that December 25 was chosen because it tied in with a Roman holiday "Dies natalis Solis Invicti", a Pagan holiday celebrating the sun's rebirth after mid winter. Not a bad idea. "In the bleak Midwinter" seems a good time for a bit of feasting and celebration.
And in each place where it is celebrated, it is different... if only slightly. It always seems to involve presents and what the people of that country consider to be a "good" dinner.
The French, for example, tend to eat oysters, foie gras, a little roast duck or goose (turkey is still rare), une bonne salade française, chocolate cake and of course, cheese. Champagne, red and white wines are served dependant on the course and the whole affair takes hours. No rush...and no Christmas Pudding to be seen anywhere!
But everywhere bit by bit business has seen the opportunity to exploit the occasion to a greater or lesser extent.
Today in Scotland, so that shops and stores can maximise the Yuletide, they start advertising as early as August. 'Is it that time already?' you think to yourself, and you realise that it both isn't... and, unfortunately, it is.
In November they start playing Christmas music in the shops and you can't move for Santas, reindeer and elves. 'Seven more weeks of this', you think to yourself as you try to get the tune of 'God Rest Ye Merry' out of your head.
By mid December, I imagine, most people are heartily sick of it.
Tired (mainly) women are hunting through stores for something for Great Aunt Nellie, and cousin Bill, and purses, wallets and credit cards take a severe beating.
Christmas cards have to be sent to everyone and their dog (literally in some cases) and lists have to be made and remade, food planned and FAR too much stuff bought. And the Joneses have to be kept up with!
By Christmas day everyone is exhausted. And still someone has to cook the most important meal of the year. (Ye gads!)
Invariably that's a nerve racking affair because all the family is round and there aren't enough pots, rings on the stove, plates, chairs... and in the lounge Grandpa is getting tucked in about the drink along with Uncle Bart, and the kids are starting to get fractious because they are bored.
And when dinner finally comes, something's bound to be wrong... and there's always someone who left their tact at the bottom of an empty glass and is wont to remark on the hardness of the sprouts, or impart the unwanted details of how THEY would have cut the carrots.... and, is this cake shop bought??? Horror!
Businesses now depend on December for about 20% of their yearly take, and they will do almost anything to get you to buy.
Even in good years when there's work and people are doing all right, there are those who don't have enough to give their family a "decent Christmas", although I'm not certain what's 'decent' about this unnecessary splurging of money.
People borrow to levels that they can't afford, max out their credit cards and store cards... and then after 4 months of buying, it's over, and all they have left is the knowledge that when the bills come in... there will be trouble.
How many times have how many people said "never again"?
This year, more than ever, people are determined to "have a really good time despite everything". And according to the Metro today, people are even intending putting their mortgages on hold or missing their rent so that they can spend, spend, spend. Citizens' Advice centres beware.
What all this has to do with 'Cristes Maesse', I'm not sure.
But I know that throughout next year people will be running to stand still with their bills, without having to pay off Christmas too.
Well, I won't. So, maybe there's some merit in being Scrooge.