I have a friend who carries misery in her handbag. She doles some out to people who are happier than she, so woe betide you if you have good news to tell her and she's in a crabby mood. Best to shut your mouth. Being childless - and not for want of trying - she's never a Christmassy person at the best of times.
Every other year, if they are not doing something more interesting, my friend and her husband come to our place - well, my Mum's actually - for Christmas lunch. They invite themselves most years, or make it so that it seems rude NOT to invite them. They even comment on what they'd like to have for lunch and one year demanded prior to the day cranberry sauce to go with the turkey - the bread sauce and gravy we had planned were apparently not enough. They came last year and we had seafood, which luckily delighted everyone.
This year they have family visiting them from interstate, so it - happy sigh - will be a quiet and very relaxed Christmas lunch with just my Mum and my husband.
But like most recent years I'm having a hard time summoning up the goodwill-to-all-men-and-women, deck the halls with boughs of holly spirit. This is because the shopping centres start putting up Christmas decorations in October and playing carols on the loudspeakers from November. By December, I've stopped noticing or caring. In fact I'm usually cursing the trees the local shopping centre puts up smack bang in the middle of the walkways, as I have to duck and weave around them to get past the morbidly obese people waddling along two abreast pushing trolleys laden with junk food.
The need to grab the retail dollar nice and early in the Christmas shopping spree has a knock on effect with families. Another friend of mine, Sue, has a daughter who is nine years old but has a mental age of five. This kid is mad about Christmas. She's been talking about Christmas and Santa Claus since the beginning of October. She's been making cards, invitations to non-existent Christmas parties, learning Christmas carols albeit with the wrong lyrics and generally driving her parents nuts. I bet this isn't the only family wishing the shopping centres would stick their Christmas trees where the sun don't shine.
Every year I take Sue and her two daughters to church on Christmas Eve. Her husband won't drive her and she can't drive. He's not interested in the church service. I'm agnostic but hey, if I want to get into the Christmas spirit - and by then, Bah! Humbug! is on the tip of my tongue - the carol service makes me sit back and think about what Christmas is all about as a celebration. Not that Jesus was born on 25 December, but the Christians decided that taking over the midwinter pagan celebrations seemed like a good idea to pull the crowds - and hey, it worked! It's a feel good atmosphere and the nine-year-old adores it, even though she doesn't grasp the Jesus aspect and thinks Christmas is simply about Santa.
From being a religious celebration, Christmas has become a retail free for all, with families putting themselves into debt for the next few months or beyond to buy their kids stuff they can't afford and with which the kids will probably be bored by New Year's Day. The number of catalogues we pull out of our letterbox has trebled in the last few weeks, with electronic gadgets, toys and other expensive goodies being pushed at us. Buy, buy, buy! If all those spendaholics bought their kids one less present and instead gave the amount they'd spend on it to charity to help people who literally have nothing, they'd be making someone's Christmas very merry indeed.
I'm giving some money this year to a local charity, Christian Community Aid, who help people in the Ryde area: refugees who don't have furniture or food, struggling families. CCA gives out food parcels at Christmas to these folk, and if I can help one struggling family have a good Christmas Day, I won't feel so Bah! Humbug! about the overdecorated shopping centres, the tinsel in my face everywhere I go, the awful rock renditions of traditional carols. It's not that I'm rolling in money, far from it, but my family will be enjoying a seafood lunch this Christmas Day, so if we can afford that we can afford to help others.
Until then, it's Bah Humbuggery!