• Henry Michael

Writer's Block 6 - Christmas

Updated: Aug 30, 2018

The first term’s drawing to a close, snow settles over Cardiff, and it’s time once again to turn our thoughts to the festive season. Whether it’s your first trip back since Fresher’s Week or just a nice breather before exams, Christmas is always a welcome break, and a good chance to say goodbye to your pets before the current Day After Tomorrow style weather freezes them to a drainpipe.

These days, Christmas tends to progress in much the same vein every year. X-Factor finishes, Louis Walsh goes back to his job at Argos, and families from all over the country sit down together to watch someone get bludgeoned to death on Eastenders. Bottles of brandy are finished, tensions rise, and arguments form; my parents would always bicker over trivial things, like the Brussels sprouts, or Dad’s affairs with his secretary. It got so bad that they even split up over a game of charades, and refused to speak to each other since, or during. Meanwhile, Grandpa is wheeled out from under the stairs to watch the Queen’s Speech, then given some mulled wine and garnished with a Christmas hat before being wheeled back again. While it’s a nice tradition, the thing about drinking with your grandparents is that it’s very hard to spot if they’ve had a stroke - we once went several days before realising that Grandma’s slurred speech was the result of neurological damage, not gin, and would continue to make funny faces and wink at each other knowingly as we stepped over her in the corridor.

But of course, Christmas is still a time of magic and wonder for young children. Every year, I used to love telling my parents how a bearded man had climbed down my chimney in the middle of the night, but it was only when he was identified as the local vicar that the council finally came and took him away. Stockings are put up, Christmas lists are drawn, and refreshments are left for Santa and his reindeer; my friend was five when he discovered that Santa wasn’t real, after mistaking bleach for Eggnog and coming down to find his father passed out by the fireplace. Likewise, I accidentally discovered the secret when the Christmas list I wrote was muddled up with my dad’s tax receipts, and I woke up one morning to discover 6 bottles of cognac and a male prostitute.

The school nativity is another much-loved tradition, and not just by the kids. Parents would enjoy trying to correctly identify Little Donkey from a series of near-identical recorder pieces, and it was welcome break for drama teachers, being one of the few times they could dress the div kid up as a goat and keep him out of a speaking role. Things really reach their peak when the children start to forget their lines - one of the shepherds usually arrives early, to widespread puzzlement, prompting the boy playing Joseph to skip to the end and start demanding myrrh from a confused-looking Mary. Meanwhile, extracts are chosen from some of the less depressing parts of the Bible, and there is much joy as a kid with a speech impediment is required to say “Bethlehem”. It’s just a shame that political correctness prompted my primary school to change the story and “include input from other faiths” - as while Christianity isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no denying that Jesus looked silly in a turban, and it was almost impossible to stage the birth scene while Mary was forced to sit in a separate room away from the other men.

Still, there’s plenty to look forward to in these holidays, even if we can’t fit on Santa’s lap anymore. Furbies no longer exist, and there’s a new Harry Potter film to enjoy - “The Darkest One Yet”, which, seeing as they’ve said this every year since the first one, implies that it’ll share several scenes from Pulp Fiction. So have a lovely Christmas, and be sure to enjoy the holiday in your own special way. Rest assured that I’ll be content at home, sipping on my Baileys and flicking through this month’s Bravissimo catalogue, dribbling happily down myself until it’s time to make our New Year’s Resolutions. I usually try and give up bigotry, but like most people, I often find it very difficult to keep these things up for more than a few days. I just don’t have the willpower.

Letters to the Editor – This week: Christmas Concerns

Dear Henry,

Being a time of giving, I was thinking of spending these holidays helping underprivileged children. Where’s the best place to start?

There are a huge range of organisations looking for help at Christmas, so it really depends on your interests. I started volunteering with the Make a Wish Foundation, as there’s no greater gift than taking sick children to swim with dolphins, even if their life support machines do tend to weigh them down quite quickly. Some people like to give money online, and a popular option is to sponsor a child from a deprived third world country - but once you consider that it’s only £5.10 for the Severn Bridge, you might as well deliver the goat there yourself.

Whenever it’s Christmas time, I always find myself feeling lonely and depressed. Is this just me being irrational?

Not at all, it’s very common for people to feel isolated around this time of year. Last Christmas saw my neighbour drink over 6 liters of calpol in a cry for help, and the Samaritans are reporting a noticeable increase in suicides over this period, though to be fair, they have just changed their hold music to Nobody Loves Me by Portishead. Over the holiday it’s easy for people to feel jealous and lose their self-esteem, which is why I’ve started doing a series of inspirational talks at local primary schools - teaching children that just because you’re born with a large penis, it doesn’t mean you can’t go on to achieve great things.

My grandma keeps knitting me jumpers for Christmas, and won’t let me go out the house without them. I wouldn’t normally mind, but she’s inherently right-wing and they always have pictures of Hitler’s face on them. Is there anything I can do to get her to stop?

Unwanted gifts are a hallmark of Grandmas, but this sounds brilliant. Never mind stopping, write the word “Cameron?” on them and you’ll make an absolute killing down the next NUS protest. See if you can get her to rustle up some biscuits in the shape of Nick Clegg, you’ll be paying back those extra tuition fees in no time.