The True Spirit of Christmas

I am such a walking cliché, but I have to say it: I really hate Christmas. It’s the single most horrifying part of the year for me. Strictly enforced bonhomie, trite little jingles about Baby Jesus (or ‘Baby Cheeses’ as my niece calls the saintly little squirt) and the insufferable commercialisation of it all just makes me want to retch.

Even the receiving of gifts gives me the shits – it’s like a two for one. Get a gift, and get angry about it all at the same time. Awesome – I have yet another excuse to throw empty bottles at passing traffic and to kick the hobo that sleeps in the bus shelter outside my home.

I know what you’re going to be saying – I should be recycling those bottles and inviting that bum into my house so that I may bathe his feet in oil. You might even be correct in suggesting that I need some form of festive season counseling. But hey – I get paid to air my grievances to you slavering dogs, whereas my therapist charges me $90 an hour. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which avenue I’m more inclined to use.

I lay the blame for my initial hatred of Christmas squarely at the feet of my father. Oh, his intentions at the time were honourable, but the fear and confusion he caused me haunts me to this day.

When I was a small child, we lived in a ramshackle house with an old pressed tin roof. One Christmas Eve, my mother was tucking my sister and myself into bed in preparation for the big day. My dad, bless the old fart, decided to give my sister and I a treat. The stunt was designed to make this one the most magical Christmas ever.

Father went out into the yard, and began to lob pebbles onto the roof to simulate the sound of reindeer feet. My sister, in the company of my mother, was convinced – Santa was on the roof, the presents had arrived and a magical time was to be had by all.

I, on the other hand, was at that delicate stage where information took a long time to process. I had only recently been introduced to the concept of the fat man and his assembled deer dishing out toys, and I will readily admit to being mightily confused by it. So when the cacophony began from above, I did the natural thing – I ran to the window.

That’s how, at the tender age of four, I came to see my father throwing rocks at Santa Claus.

Things didn’t get much better for me from that point. The following year I had the dual pleasures of starting school and meeting the world’s youngest cynic at the same time. His name was Mike Butler and he knew the secrets of life.

He told me where babies come from (the bellybutton), where poo goes when you flush the toilet (dogs eat it in the sewers) and the truth about Santa Claus.

“It’s your dad who brings the presents on Christmas Eve”, he told me breathlessly as we fashioned crude Christmas cards from coloured art paper, Perkins Paste (oh, so tasty…) and glitter.

I never got to clarify that statement, as Mike was transferred to another school for breaking Geoffrey Tualehe’s nose in a fight over a disputed line call playing marbles the following lunch time.

So – I was left with two conflicting images. One had my father dressing up in a costume and flying around the world on Christmas Eve when I was asleep, the other was my mental picture of him hurling stones at a potentially armed intruder on the roof.

Five-year-olds aren’t exactly known for their abilities to reconcile contrasting images, especially ones that involve the staples of the young imagination. It’s not that I didn’t believe my father was capable of carrying out his Herculean Christmas task – I just couldn’t figure out why he’d be throwing rocks at his own reindeer. Especially poor Rudolph. He’d been left out of the reindeer games for so long, and now here Dad was, pelting him with missiles.

I made it my life’s mission to uncover the mystery, and within three years it had driven me mad. To add insult to injury was my introduction to the true meaning of Christmas at age six. In an attempt to church me up a bit, I was sent to Sunday School. Here I was taught that a baby had been born in a stable in a far-away land some considerable time ago.

Big woop, I thought to myself. There are sinister forces at work here, the truth is being obscured by fable and spin. Children are not being told the truth. So it was then that I got stuck into my crusade in earnest.

I told everyone I could that it was my father who was Santa Claus. I cannot remember the number of times I was bashed for saying it – many other children were making the same claim, but I believed Mike’s original assessment of the situation, because the other things he had told me mostly turned out to be true. Mostly.

But the beatings were easily explained – they were merely the actions of pint-sized Christmas conspiracist operatives, who had been genetically bred to never age, attending school only to keep the conspiracy alive in the hearts and minds of children.

We all remember kids that just disappeared from school one day. “Where’s Ronald?”, we’d ask each other. “He’s gone – I heard he moved to Queensland.”

“But he was just here last week!”

He’d been moved all right – transferred to assist at another school, and to hide the fact that he’d been repeating second class at Haberfield Demonstration School for the past twenty years.

I realise now the folly of my ways, but that doesn’t make Christmas any easier to deal with. In fact, it just serves as a painful reminder of the juvenile madness that dominated my early years.

My dad – well, he’s retired from his delivery run these days. On the odd occasion that he’s had a few to drink, I think he brings out the red suit and talks wistfully about his sleigh. But we have an agreement – we never discuss it openly. He’s even agreed to keep his beard trimmed to a decent length to avoid any Santa associations I might have. He’s a good man and I love him dearly. Especially when he gives me toys.

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