By Stan Stewart
For years now, about this time of the year I am asked to play Santa. It seems I have the ‘shape’ for it and seeing I like children, it should be a perfect fit. I always decline. The personal reason being, I am uneasy with what Father Christmas has come to represent. Some of my friends fill the role and good for them. I can’t. We have friends in retail and I hope their Santa-themed promotions work and that they have a bumper season.
My worst Santa memory relates to a community carol event I was involved with. Towards the end of the evening Santa made a scheduled appearance. He threw sweets to the children. Normally well-behaved children lost it. They mobbed Santa and he had to be rescued by two young dads. I blame our bad planning for this fracas.
For me the problem is that the Santa myth is increasingly becoming the excuse for indulgence and over-indulgence. The ‘ho ho ho’ figure is becoming the excuse for adults to let their hair down, big time.
In Brisbane, where I am living, the most advertised Christmas event is ‘A Very Naughty Christmas’. From what I read from their advertisements and a review of last year’s production, the show features a very horny Santa and much sexual and bi-sexual buffoonery. As part of the show they present traditional Christmas carols with a ‘hilarious’ difference - new naughty lyrics’. I shudder!
When I was an apprentice, our trades-assistant would sing well known Italian arias with filthy words. I wish I could forget these words, but they are still in my head. They have ruined these arias for me. Is this going to happen to centuries old Christmas carols?
My current responsibilities mean that I visit a shopping centre every day – sometimes hurriedly and sometimes with time to spare. When I have time on my hands, I have been checking out this year’s Christmas cards. Only a few of them have the old themes of stars and shepherds and manger scenes. Overwhelmingly, they feature Santa. In one card shop facing the public walkway, I saw a display of about 40 sex-themed Christmas cards. On the cover of each of them (I never opened any), they referenced past sexual escapades and advised the receiver to get ready for the next. The wording on these cards reminded me of what as a teen I used to see scribbled on the inside walls of toilet stalls. I guess that back then we were inhibited and up-tight. Now we are mature and free??
As I write this I am wondering if I am becoming a ‘prude’? Am I simply a kill joy – a sour older man out of place in this vibrant, liberated modern era?
In my daily shopping centre visits, I see crowds of people. I see young women with their tats and short shorts looking so trendy. But, honestly few of them appear happy or even at ease. And as for the older people - many of them seem pre-occupied and others give me the impression of being irritated or annoyed. And sadly, every day there are one or two, whom I assume, are homeless and/or addicted.
I don’t think any of us can escape the problems in the wider world - the war in Ukraine, global warming, cost of living and inflation on the rise, terrorists wreaking havoc in many countries, violence in our back yard. These prospects are enough to dampen the most optimistic.
The Christmas Story- But it is precisely in times like this that I believe the Christmas story shines. Here’s some reasons why.
The heroine. An unmarried teenage girl who gives birth to a child.
The circumstances. No running water – no toilet – no midwife – no heat. (Not unlike life in some cities in Ukraine this Christmas).
The first responders. Men with little or no education, who lived with animals and who seldom washed.
The second responders. People from another race, another religion, another language, another culture.
It brings to my mind a line from a Christmas Carol written 180 years ago, ‘Oh little town of Bethlehem’. It goes “The hopes and fears of all the world are met in you tonight”. Well, this Christmas there are plenty of fears, or at least worrying uncertainties and hope is something we all need.
For 2000 years, in multiple cultures, in the middle of wars, famine and disease, this story has helped people. It’s a story telling that hope can be found in the most unexpected quarters. The people who might enable us to survive may not be the high, the mighty and the rich (not even Elon). Vulnerable young people and new babies might be the key to a new, more positive way of thinking. It suggests to me that the poor and the outcasts might know more about ‘truth’ than our most erudite commentators. It challenges me to be open to the wisdom of other cultures and other religions. In Christmas 2022 it inspires and helps me.
I hope this Christmas is one of the best for you! Stan