Changing your tune regarding Christmas

Christmas presents
Christmas presents

By Ralph Mellon

It’s probably a question you’re sick of – as sick of as all the rest of the Christmas hype and excess that’s already been enveloping us like a huge ball of garish wrapping paper for the last few weeks.

Television adverts for eating, replete with Z-list celebrities and banquet tables groaning under vast layers of food, have reached an almost offensive level, presenting Christmas as a lavish gorgefest when so many around the world are hungry.

Those of us who still fail to get captivated by all the excitement can, at least, just keep our heads down and plod through it until it’s over, with the comfort of knowing we’ll soon be plunged back into the jaded, lethargic misery of January.

It’s only a matter of time, which kind of sums up life itself.

However, a couple of questions – have you found your attitude to certain aspects of Christmas changing as you’ve become older? What kind of desires does Christmas evoke for you now, compared to when you were a youngster?

In the last couple of years, I’ve become a lot more tolerant of Christmas carols, along with cheesy festive songs recorded by totally unlikely or unsuitable artists.

We have a few CDs in the house which mix the best Christmas records of all time with truly the bottom-of-the-barrel unlistenable worst. Yet I quite enjoy listening to them all.

The cheerful glam rock raucousness of Wizzard and Slade, however, is gradually being replaced by the soothing crooning of Perry Como and Jim Reeves.

Also, in my far-off primary school days, we seemed to spend a lot of our time being taught Christmas carols – often all year round – and I can still remember a lot of the lyrics, so I reckon I’m probably getting around now to appreciating them a bit more.

If I had to pick a definitive Festive Top Three, however, I think number one would be ‘Ring Out Solstice Bells’ from Jethro Tull (1976), followed by ‘2000 Miles’ from The Pretenders (1983), while I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘Stop The Cavalry’ by Jona Lewie (1980).

I’d readily concede, however, there are many others which deserve to be taken into consideration.

Then comes the question of the favourite ever Christmas present. What is yours?

I have to admit, as a youngster, Christmas was quite idyllic, and it took me many, many years to realise that for a lot of people, it’s not a pleasant time at all.

If you are fortunate enough to have had happy Christmases, I reckon you tend to yearn just slightly for that innocence and enjoyment when the season rolls round again, and wish, just once, it could be like that again.

Nearly all our family festive seasons were spent with my grandparents in Oban and, for myself and my younger sibling, the holidays (oh, to be off once again for a fortnight at Christmas) were a two-week symphony of laziness, sweets, toys, television and preposterous bedtimes.

So lost were we in this world of idyll and pleasure, we didn’t even know what day of the week it was.

Action Man was always near the top of the festive ‘wanted’ list. We built up a collection of almost every military uniform and accessory of war from around the world.

This was in the days when Action Man was rugged and virile, before the time when a changing and more diverse world was embraced with Action Man the airline steward, antique restorer and flower arranger.

Table sports and board games were as popular then as they are now and a particular highlight came one year when, as football-daft youngsters, we were given ‘Striker’ and ‘Super Striker’ – similar versions of a table football game in which you pressed the players’ heads down to make them kick the ball – to make ‘Ultimate Definitive Supremely Superduper Striker Redux’, or something. Braw days indeed.