Friday, December 08, 2006

Bah bloody humbug

Bloody hell. It's bloody Christmas abloodygain.

I'm not a complete Grinch. Really. There are things I like about Western Consumer Holiday, the licence to go out to lunch and not come back being chief among them. Prawns, gingerbread and Bing Crosby are high on the list, too, though preferably not served on the same plate. However, boozy afternoons, prawns and Bing aside, there are things I really hate about the season.

People turning their houses into sideshow alley
I have no argument with Christmas trees or door wreaths. They're fine and they look quite cheerful. I can even cope with little some little fairy lights on the front of your house or in your trees. It's this sort of caper that scares the bejesus out of me:


There's a guy living here in Adelaide who's been lighting up his house and yard every Christmas for years. He puts up thousands of bulbs every year and creates little sound and light shows with music and whirlygigs and crap that covers every square centimetre of his front yard. He's a wee bit eccentric, obviously, and spends all year getting ready for Christmas. His neighbours probably hate him to death, because it means their street is full of people every night in December, but they can't complain because otherwise they'll look like Grinches.

Light Guy used to be an oddity, but now Christmas lights has become a competitive sport. If it goes any further, people will be lobbying for it to replace squash in the Olympics. A visit to K-mart or Bunnings and you've got pretty much all the shite you need to turn your house into a monstrosity of light pollution and plastic. Two-foot tall plastic candy canes, icicle lights, disembodied plastic santa heads, reindeer, all-singing all-dancing life-sized santas, angels, bloody snowmen - you name it, you can get it. Giant, inflatable Santas are very much the go at the moment. You can even get one that has a little motor in-built, so that Santa's inflatable head rises up out of an inflatable chimney. If only someone thought to team it with the soundtrack from The Shining, the effect would be complete. I seem to remember that last year or the year before, a local family was horribly upset because someone stabbed their Santa and killed Christmas. (And no, it wasn't me!)

I'm sure it's all lovely for the kiddies, but we didn't have any of this nonsense when I was a little tacker. We used to live in a rolled-up newspaper on the side of the road - no bloody Christmas lights there, thank you very bloody much.

I hate shopping. The only thing I actually enjoy shopping for is books. I'm not interested in shopping for clothes, shoes, handbags, toys, tools, homewares, electronics or anything else. If I need something, I'll make a half-arsed attempt to buy it, but more than likely I'll lose the will to live after looking in two shops and will have to come home and have a stiff drink. I know it's very un-female of me, but the consumer urge just isn't there.

As you might imagine, when it comes to Christmas, I am forced to shop until I have something for everyone and I become downright depressed. Perhaps the crappy carols have something to do with it. (If there was more Bing, I'm sure Christmas would be a better place.) But it's the decorations that really do my head. We own a Christmas tree and some cat-attracting gee-gaws to hang on it, but it's not likely to go up until about a week before Christmas. In the shops, the trees and garlands and bits of other fluff go up in October, giving you that unpleasant sense of foreboding (cue the music from The Shining again). Then the fruit mince pies appear and you know you're buggered. Massed racks of tinsel and baubles and little strings of beads and glittery angels and giant pink foil Christmas trees make me want to slash my wrists.

Plus there's the consideration that no-one actually needs anything. It gives the ordeal that is Christmas shopping a sense of high farce: they don't need it, you don't want to have to look for it but there you are. I live in fear of the random homewares that will inevitably have my name on them this year. If any of my family is reading this, please, for the love of Ford, don't do it! I don't need them!

So, the equation is fairly simple. Shopping = bad. Decorations = bad. Other crazy shoppers and screaming kids = bad. Buying crap that no-one needs = bad. Even for the numerically-challenged, that's a whole lot of nasty. In the end, Christmas shopping boils down to something of an endurance test. It's not unlike trying to eat 85 hotdogs in two minutes and has the same outcome.

Weird marketing ploys
I present Exhibit A. Behold, the upside-down Christmas tree:

This one is quite modest, as the species goes. At least it's green and looks to be made of some sort of fake piney material. I saw one the other day in Hell Mall that was made from purple tinsel. "Aww, darl, won't this give the lounge a bit of class for Chrissie?" Really, what brain surgeon came up with this idea? Obviously it's a nasty, cynical marketing ploy hatched with the intention of making people believe that their perfectly serviceable normal Christmas trees are passe. Apparently, the trend started in the US and is quite popular there because it means there's plenty of room for presents underneath. If you have that many presents that they're piling up and poking into the branches, you're buying too damned much. Give gift vouchers. For books. Or better still, piglets to people in the Third World. And forgive me for being crude, but that upside down tree resembles nothing so much as a muff that's been neglected over the winter and now needs whipper-snippering. Wax alone just won't do the job on that puppy. To borrow a phrase from the Fug Girls, it just looks like someone stepped in a big pile of crazy.

Office Christmas parties
(See: eating 85 hotdogs in two minutes.) Invariably, these turn pear-shaped, especially when the booze is turned on for free. Last year's party was unusually sucessful from my point of view, because I did manage to wreak vengeance on an ad rep who had been giving me unwarranted grief all year. I poured a a pint of the Coopers' best into his lap. It looked accidental until the accomplice who bumped me gave me a high five in front of him. This was all done with a cracked rib and a headful of painkillers and dryo whoite wine. This was, however, an aberration. On the whole, office parties either turn out to be boring as batshit, or end up with something cringeworthy happening. You get a little too merry, you tell the boss or a colleague exactly where they can shove that mince pie and then you have to spend your holidays worrying about what everyone will say when you go back to work.

New Year's Eve is now way too close
In my experience, NYE is the biggest let-down of the year. You're under far too much pressure to have a good time and it usually fizzles, leaving you with that creeping feeling of failure. After all, on the funnest fun-fun night of the year, you haven't had a good time? What's the matter with you? I'd be happy to just cancel it altogether. Ideally, I settle down with a DVD, a bag of crisps and a bottle of wine and read about the arrests the next day in the paper.

But have a lovely WCH, anyway. Get into the spirit of the season and try not to kill any of your family members when you get together for ritualised over-eating.

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At 7:08 pm, December 09, 2006, Blogger londongirl said...

Rolled up newspaper by the edge of the road? You were lucky...

I bloody hate all that tacky nonsense too, but my only consolation is the whopping expenditure on tat and electricity will hopefully limit their social life the rest of the year, so I won't have to meet them.

And office parties...don't talk to me about office parties. I have three which I feel is an unnecessary amount by which to torture me. Bastards.

At 11:00 pm, December 09, 2006, Blogger Snoskred said...

I have the answer to your shopping woes.. :) Go to a cheap dollar store and buy as many cheap $2 canvasses as you need to give presents for. Go to Spotlight (Castle Plaza is good, not too many other stores there to get in the way of finding a park) and purchase art paint, invisible glue and glitter of various colors. Metallic is good. Black (any color is good but black works a treat) for backgrounds, with gold and silver artistically splashed on them. Spend a few afternoons drinking your favourite alcoholic beverage and painting and decorating these cheap canvasses while everyone else is driving frantically around Westfield Marion trying to get a park (and failing miserably, and who the FSCK thought of putting a movie theatre there as well?)

It doesn't matter how bad they turn out, because it is the thought that counts, and also because you clearly spent time working on something to give to them, so on the gift giving points scale, you get a +10 for effort. Anyone can walk into a shop and buy a box of chocolates. They get a -10. :)

At 6:59 am, December 10, 2006, Blogger jedimerc said...

We've had 2 people seriously injured and 1 person die in our area from putting up Christmas lights, and it was after our minor little snow and ice.

As far as the ritualised over-eating, that is about the only time I get a good meal, so I can put up with the family nonsense for the necessary time...

At 9:27 am, December 10, 2006, Blogger Ariel said...

Nice one. I, too, have heard of the upside-down Christmas trees, which are the stupidist thing I've ever heard. How far can you stretch symbolism before it ceases to mean anything at all? Yes, it had already pretty much gone off the cliff. But bullshit like that is setting fire to the smashed remains so there's not a trace left. (The evergreen was supposed to symbolise everlasting life.)

Christmas parties seem like a good idea at the time. But free booze, teeny weeny finger food and the release of a year's worth of tension is rarely good for anyone's career prospects.

At 2:12 pm, December 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right on the money with the office parties thing except those cringeworthy moments are what make great conversation and keep us all laughing well into the new year. I think an even worse scenario is having the whole thing cancelled due to not enough staff rsvp-ing, which happened to my fun-filled workplace just this week. I mean not even free piss could lure these people . . . .

At 2:29 pm, December 10, 2006, Blogger gossy said...

Fearful Christmas decorations - tick
Hateful Christmas shopping - tick
Satanic Christmas trees - tick
Abominable work Christmas parties - tick
Leave me alone at New Year's Eve - tick

This is the Christmas blog entry I would have written myself, Ms Cap.

Is that another angel getting it's wings I hear? Merry Christmas!!


At 4:47 pm, December 10, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

LG, heh - love my Python :) Three parties? That is a bit out of order. I hope there's free booze.

Snos, they'd turn out worse than badly. I have on artistic talent whatsoever. Perhaps I could just give everyone the canvases and the paint and suggest they get in touch with their inner artist?

Jedimerc, were they nominated for Darwin Awards?

Ariel, meaning? Who said anything about meaning? It's Western Consumer Holiday, after all.

Anon, OTHER people's cringeworthy moments can be huge amounts of fun. It's just mine I don't like :) Look on the bright side - if your colleagues can't be tempted by booze, the party would have been dull.

Goss, thanks :) You too!

At 9:46 pm, December 10, 2006, Blogger audrey said...

I hear you on Christmas. Every year I get less and less excited about it. We used to have great Christmases when I was a little bug but being all growed up now, the tinsel don't come out anymore if you know what I mean. They're really just (another) excuse for my family to eat well and drink far too many bottles of red before playing drunken cards all night.

For the past few years, one of us has always been working on the actual day so we just schedule it in for later in the week. This is brilliant, because it means you can buy all your presents in the post Xmas sales and not feel guilty about being tight.

I often have dreams that I've forgotten to buy presents for everyone and I've turned up empty handed and anxious. My sub-conscious is apparently both weird and fiscally unaware.

As for NYE - it's dead to me. I've spent too many crap nights chasing the party. Now I just prefer to get fuckeyed at home and sneak into rich schools to skinny dip.

At 9:56 pm, December 10, 2006, Blogger Ariel said...

Touche - what was I thinking? I'm currently trying to extract any symbolism I can to relay to my child, in a hopeless attempt to provide SOME balance to Western Consumer Holiday. Yeah, yeah, I know ... uphill/impossible battle.

Oh, and I'm with you on NY too. Some of the worst over-anticipated nights of my life.

At 10:12 pm, December 10, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Auds, we get to do half of our shopping at the sales because the other half's family is Orthodox and doesn't celebrate WCH until January 7. And you can sneak into rich schools to skinny dip?! If only I lived near some (and could swim) I'd so be in that ;) The fuckeyed bit, though, I can manage every time with little or no assistance.

Ariel, I think when you're a littly, it's all about your family and the excitement of waiting for Christmas Day. I have a lovely memory of making fruit mince pies and Christmas biscuits with my mum when I was about 12. I can't remember the last time I felt that enthusiastic about Christmas.

At 7:06 am, December 11, 2006, Blogger jedimerc said...

I think it's too soon to nominate them, but I guess they should be :) (the incidents happened less than a week ago)

At 9:34 am, December 11, 2006, Blogger PetStarr said...

You forgot to mention the dreaded "secret santa" office ritual, where everyone has to buy everyone else a piece of cheap $5 shite from Cunnos in return for another piece of cheap $5 shite from Cunnos. Worst. Tradition. Ever. I DON'T WANT A SHITTY $5 PRESENT FROM SOMEONE I DON'T KNOW. KEEP IT. KEEP IT!!!!!!!!!!!

PS: although it does give you the opportunity to pass on any previously received crappy gifts, as I am planning to do this year.

At 9:41 am, December 11, 2006, Blogger redcap said...

Gah, forgot Secret Santa! I got the mankiest playful kitten mug last year. I finally managed to break it after dropping it four times from increasing heights.

At 10:50 am, December 11, 2006, Blogger Rach said...




If only I could staple antlers to my cats head.

in the meantime my one and only christmas decoration is the same sticker that lives on the window all year round.

stinkin christmas

At 10:55 am, December 11, 2006, Blogger audrey said...

We're doing our secret santa today. I managed to find a really pretty japanese teapot in the price bracket. I'll probably get a pair of deer antlers or something.

At 12:27 pm, December 14, 2006, Anonymous Teddy said...

So sad---sounds like you never got that cabbage patch pig that you so dearly wanted-------------------Ok then, its now official---the fat guy in the red suit is out of business from now on, so we will cancell the holiday and all go to work----holiday ????---oh, thats right, it is a religious feast---ok, we will stick with that bit and the family get together-----but you aint gonna cancell New Years Eve---a tip for you----come 11.45, grab your champagne and wander down to a fairly deserted beach with your big dog and enjoy the sights and sounds and know that your sins of a year have passed you by and you now have a clean slate and you are ready to start again-----ps. take the empty home again

At 4:21 pm, December 21, 2006, Anonymous ashleigh said...

I so agree with you. I was sent here by MikeFitz ( This is a wonderful cutting-down-to-size of the orgy of spending.

See my post: - the amount that is spent on crap we don't want, and don't need... its just appalling. Other cultures must think western Christians are quite batty.

At 6:31 pm, June 22, 2007, Blogger River said...

Two points:
1.Give gift vouchers. This is an excellent idea which I have been doing for years, at the after "WCH" sales the recipient can get so much more trash for their cash.
2. Never worry about the aftermath of the office christmas "do". If everyone else is just as sloshed, no-one will remember what they or anyone else said or did.
By the way, I LOVE that you call christmas the Western Consumer Holiday. May I use that occasionally? Please?


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