The celebration of Christmas in one form or another has pervaded down through the centuries throughout the world,  whether it be with Iceland’s thirteen Santas or Australia’s Father Christmas in a red rubber suit and surfboard,
writes Tom McParland.

Why do pre-Christmas days turn our children into apparently confident adults and we adults into apparently unconfident children? Perhaps it’s because it’s easier to know what they want than to have the responsibility for getting it. Or is this us momentarily envying youth and our seeking solace from a long gone world when we were once young?

Because Christmas is like childhood itself. A temporary but immutable interval among the ever-changing years. Children grow out of childhood but never outgrow Christmas. From demanding infancy we observe Christmas, yet remain unaware of our observing. Like talking. The language we speak, from first simple mewling, is perfectly understandable to us. It is only credited as talking when we make it coherent to adults.
Similarly, Christmas seems to come to each childhood generation as a complete package. No one remembers their first Christmas, let alone having to learn about the first one.

In nursery rhymes, Little Bo Peep remains sheepless, Jack and Jill pale without a pail while Little Miss Moffet is forever arachnophobic. These are the earliest abstractions we take on board as infants. We don’t learn them. Rather we, unbidden, finish the last syllable of the final word of each rhyme until suddenly the only prompting we need is a first word to complete the whole.

Afterwards the process reverses itself with the infant choosing and lilting. Should anyone ever attempt to alter a word of these sillynesses, somehow we’d feel they betray an unspoken fealty within themselves as human beings.

 How much more a bedrock then is Christmas?
 It, like Christian faith, not only has proved impervious to abolition but rather subsumes any interruptions as the hiccups of history they are.

The first actual banning of the outward acknowledgement of Christmas was, ironically, Christian. In1647 an English Puritan parliament banned such displays. But for most English people this was a reformation too far and the ban caused pre-Christmas rioting in English cities.

Continue reading in this week’s Christmas Double Issue