A few days ago, the doorbell rang. This was of course not a major event- our doorbell rings several times a day, and is rung by various people, notably old men selling bucketfuls of rotting fruit at “a special price for you ‘yioka mou’” and the occasional guest or pizza delivery boy. But this time, on opening the door we were greeted by some young boys singing “Jingle Bells”. They were out of tune too.
So we told them to go away and come back in a month. The first week of November does not qualify in my book as part of the festive season, regardless of whether these children need some spare change to play video games (at least that is what I hope they do with the money).
Carol singers braving the cold, walking down the street, knocking on doors and offering music in exchange for a treat or a warm cuppa used to be one of the wonderful traditions of Christmas. Now twelve year old kids with designer clothes, mobile phones and an entrepreneurial spirit turn up at your door with a musical triangle and a coin bank asking for cold, hard cash. There are some that eschew the tinny sounds of the triangle and opt for a taped accompaniment. I have even been serenaded by children who did not even bother singing along to the taped music. They didn’t even lip-synch. I asked them “Do you expect me to give you money for that?” then shut the door before they answered. I can imagine them going back to their parents and complaining “Mummy, mummy, some horrible man shut the door on us.”
Then again, I also dislike the carols themselves. If they are so good, why don’t we still sing them in January? Ditto Christmas turkey, a strange, mutant version of the wild American bird, selectively bred to squeeze all the moisture and flavour out of it.
I do realise I am beginning to come off as Scrooge (the old coot in the Dickens’ novel, not the duck) and for this I must apologise. I used to look forward to Christmas. I used to love receiving and giving gifts, and still get a warm fuzzy feeling when I see the face of a loved one lighting up as they unwrap the gift I carefully selected for them. But I do not like the inflatable Santas they sell at the kiosks and I do not like the endless advertising on TV of gifts and toys and gadgets. I do not like the cues at shops, the increased traffic in the streets, the over-consumption of goods, of fuel, of food, caused by the pressure to buy, the pressure to spend.
“Christmas is a time for giving”, they say. Why wait until Christmas? I say give the whole year round. Give money to charity, give love to those around you, give hope and joy and laughter.
But don’t give the carols singers any cash in November. It’ll only encourage them to start carolling from October.
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