I should probably put something on here about it being New Year’s Eve and have some suitable motivational phrase such as ‘so long 2014: 2015, let’s do it!’. However, I won’t: I don’t do motivational cliches. I also don’t know what the ‘it’ is that people who use that phrase want us to do.
I watched a film last week with my children: Nativity 3. It was not the greatest film ever: in fact it was probably one of the worst that I have ever watched. Please do not think that I only ever watch Swedish language films that peer into the existential abyss: I liked Nativity, the first film in the series. True, that film had more plot holes than a fishing net, but it had a story and it was ‘feelgood’ in a way that only good low budget British films can be.
Aside from the fact that Nativity 3 seemed to have a less coherent plot than the first film- my children thought it was weak- there was a bigger issue that made the film weak IMHO: it’s reliance on the ‘magic of Christmas’ to provide salvation for the characters and as a prop for the plot.
I made a brief comment on this idea last week (one of the first signs of delusion is citing yourself). The sense of ‘otherness’ in life devoid of any religious/spiritual trappings is something that I have sympathy for and can understand. This film instead ramped up the idea of the ‘magic of Christmas’. This concept seems to have grown exponentially over the last few years and is devoid of any reference to the Biblical story or even the pagan roots of Yule/solstice (except where they can be wheeled onto the stage, shot blasted of any content & used as an anaemic chorus to the ‘magic‘). ‘Christmas Magic’ is like a god created in our own image that serves our wants uncritically & it never acknowledges the pain & unanswered questions that bigger stories often do.
Essentially this seems to be a saccharine mix of buying too much stuff, making your kids unhealthily the centre of this time (& over plied with ‘stuff’) & a focus on ‘me and mine’. ‘Being nice to others’ is there in ‘Christmas Magic’, but I would argue that there isn’t much imperative in that; there is no story of self sacrifice/self giving to give it any force. Smiling at each other from the safety of over full lives, houses, stomachs does not make for meaningful relationships when it gets tough.
Whilst I feel for families who have lost money and planned trips due to the closure of a number of new ‘winter wonderland’ attractions, the common complaint is that it has ‘destroyed the magic of Christmas’ for children: I can’t see it and want to say ‘can’t you give them a bigger story?’ Perhaps uncharitably, I yearn to yell at the same people ‘grow up; why don’t you. The world is sometimes nasty- give them a story that acknowledges that and not ignores it.’
Maybe I am being too harsh and Meldrew like, but I think these things are important. If you continually feed children these values of ‘me’ and spending huge amounts of money on ‘me’,it eventually forms them as adults to do the same. I long for a simpler celebration (whether religious or not) of community, feasting, sharing and less spending. I think that would be more ‘magical’….
….and perhaps I long for that more as a new year approaches.