Advent Firesiders

Goodbye (2019)

This is the last Advent Firesider I will ever write. There's only so much one person can say about a topic and since 2005 I have said quite enough. In any case, the tone of this last set is decidedly pessimistic, so perhaps that is another good reason to quit.

I don't think it is the mixture of nostalgia and pessimism which frequently tarnishes old age which leads me to say that Christmas is in danger of  disappearing from our national life only retained, like Easter, as a niche Christian celebration. Looked at from a 20th Century perspective, Christmas appeared to occupy an unchallenged Cultural place but it is important to remember that until the 19th  Century it was no more than a minor Church festival, overshadowed by almost 2000 years of Easter hegemony; yet it is remarkable how quickly Easter has been reduced to hot cross buns and chocolate eggs.

Christmas, it might be argued, has the great advantage of its heritage as a pagan festival commanding massive consumer loyalty. But Black Friday shows that the world of retail could survive the decline of Christmas but only with innovation. Many retailers rely entirely on Christmas sales for their annual profits but most people would take any excuse to mitigate the Winter gloom with a spot of present-giving and feasting.

What worries me is the cultural appropriation which has put the Crib Service alongside Father Christmas as a half believed story. Just as children will pretend to believe in Father Christmas so as not to endanger their haul of presents, so they will gladly appear in front of the Nativity Play cameras for much the same reason. With the exception of Cathedrals which have their own religio-cultural niche, as Nativity Play attendance increases Christmas Eucharist attendance decreases, the former being judged equivalent to the latter, so it will not be long before the inhospitable inn keeper and King Herod are no more than pantomime figures alongside the lecherous squire and the wicked witch.

As I warned, nostalgia is an ever present danger, but I cannot help thinking that the flattening-out of the Christian year with the near abandonment of Lent and Advent has robbed our major festivals of their salience; you can't really feast if you don't fast!