The cruel father
December 26, 2012 4 Comments
I have lived through fifty-three Christmases. I cannot vouch for those before my fourth birthday, but I can state that since I have half-heartedly celebrated just once.
My parents were non-celebrants. They celebrated nothing as I recall – no Christmases, no Easter, no birthdays, no anniversaries of any kind. Christmas was two weeks off school, two weeks of boredom. I left home in 1976.
1977 is a bit of a grey area. I stayed with my oldest brother and his wife in their house in Wivenhoe over the festive period, so Christmas carried on around me. Up to that point it was the closest I had got. In 1978 I bought a few cards and presents (for my then girlfriend and her family), but no tree or decorations. In 1979 I was living with another girl and she put up a small tree in our bedsit. Come the 25th though, she went to her mother’s and stayed for a couple of days there so that she could have her Christmas. I was all bah and humbug on my own.
Normal service resumed in 1980; I did my best to ignore it. I went through an aggressive atheism phase for a while, doing what I could to avoid Christmas cards and trying to insist that office decorations bypassed my desk. In those days there was a presumption of Christianity that has ebbed considerably in the intervening years. I don’t get asked for my Christian name very often any more – and therefore no longer puzzle those asking by declaring that I do not have one, and offering my forename instead.
Marrying a Jehovah’s Witness means that there are no Christmas battles in our house. We both avoid for our own reasons. Many years ago a friend described me as cruel for denying my children a Christmas. I reasoned that if I was cruel then was this not also true for the Muslims, Jews. Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, etc who also did not celebrate? My children do not go without – atheists have a potential 365 present-giving days in a year.
I am sent a smattering of Christmas cards every year. In the past these went straight into the bin, nowadays I am more relaxed about them and allow them a day or two on the mantelpiece before they join the recycling. I know no carols (having never sung one) although I do know the occasional line or two. I don’t watch the Queen, although Top Of The Pops has become a bit of an institution in our house.
I do like turkey, and I also enjoy Christmas pudding (with custard). Sometimes we will have this on the 25th. Otherwise our house is devoid of trees, decorations, and the naff songs that seem to be on loop in most shops from early November.