Why Christmas In London Sucks

Chris Lockie
By Chris Lockie Last edited 36 months ago
Why Christmas In London Sucks

Photo by Luca Rossato via Flickr Creative Commons

Chris Lockie hates Christmas. It's not some contrarian position, but a deeply-held conviction based on a considerable number of gripes with the festive season — and he's not alone, as he explains:

Every year I spend my Christmas in Eltham, with a usually splendid family who seem to entirely lose their minds at the merest whiff of turkey. What follows is a marathon day of drink, food, presents and good cheer that misanthropes like me simply can't stomach. The TV remains firmly off all day because that would get in the way of Now That’s What I Call Genuine Xmas Agony on repeat. Rod Stewart has another Christmas album out? Oh good.

It takes a while for Christmas to kick in; you know it's incoming when the usual tales emerge of fag-toting elves swearing drunkenly at this year’s horrifying ‘Christmas experience’ debacle in places that always seem to be somewhere near Milton Keynes. It finally hits you whenever you first hear this atrocity on an advert.

This is the time of year when freedom of speech is curtailed by millions of grinning simpletons who will not have a bad word said about Christmas by grumps and grouches who just won’t get into ‘the spirit’ of the thing.

London will become a paradise for the type of people who actually pay to see Dick Whittington and his Cat at the Lyric in Hammersmith. There will be many, many Christmas-themed pop-ups attempting to part you from Grandma's tenner, and somehow they will be embraced, rather than chased out of Shoreditch and Balham in a hail of orange and cinnamon mince pies.

It surprises no-one to discover I am one of those miserable bastards who greets Boxing Day with the type of relief that can only be provided by 11 months of Christmas-free existence, or a trip to Mr Happy's Thai Massage on Brewer Street. Relief seems a long, long way away as I imagine taking a slow trudge through a peaceful, snow-covered Hyde Park only to almost lose an eye to some pillock in the real Winter Wonderland shooting an air rifle at a coconut wearing a Santa hat.

Everything has to wear hats at Christmas. Every year I go through the never-gets-tired routine of ‘accidentally’ ripping my paper hat as it comes out of the cracker. Are you the person I saw walking a Jack Russell in a Santa hat down the Kilburn High Road last Friday? I shared a glance with the poor beast; I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more at one with nature than as the bedevilled creature beseeched me with his eyes to kick his master up the arse.

Image by Alex King via Flickr, and yes we know that's not a Jack Russell

And yet grumps like me really should count our blessings. For many people winter is not all mistletoe and wine. Thousands of people die of a lack of heating as the nights draw in — if you allow yourself 20 minutes to sip a nice cup of steaming mulled wine, during that time three people will have died across the country from the cold, according to Age UK. Over 10 winters from 2002/03 to 2011/12, there were more than 1,000 excess winter deaths in nine of the London boroughs.

It can't have escaped your attention that the Mayor's pledge to end homelessness has gone tits up and yet at this time of year, the 'time of giving', people seem far more intent on handing over their loose change to the poverty stricken Mr Marks and Mr Spencer rather than a shivering man outside Old Street tube.

Christmas itself is a source of considerable tension among many families — it's not always the festive jumpers and dad passed out in his favourite chair we're led to believe it is. A recent article in the Independent highlighted that 48% of men feel depressed during December, with 45% saying it's worst around Christmas time. Is it possible that Christmas isn't the annual answer to all our prayers? Not that anyone actually prays around Christmas time these days — that'd just be weird — though of course a nice carol or two can't hurt.

And of course it's the same carols every year — a few stuffy old God-bothering ones but mostly Wizzard, Slade, Nat King Cole, and Cliff. When the opening bars of Wham's outrage begin I imagine myself slapping {REDACTED} with a {REDACTED} then slowly {REDACTED} with a turkey spit. If only Christmas music was allowed a little variety, we might not even need songs like this:

“Oh be quiet Grinch, get into the spirit,” I hear you mutter. Getting repeatedly poked up the jacksie by a roll of wrapping paper up the giant escalator at Angel does not induce ‘the spirit’ I’m afraid. And believe me, there will be wrapping paper, because 'giving' has now simply become 'spending'. Get used to quotes like this: “Witnesses described shoppers behaving like ‘animals’ at a branch [of Tesco] in Edmonton, north London.” Or take a trip to Asda in Wembley and experience ‘the spirit’ yourself:

The odd thing is: I love winter. Snow is merry and beautiful, the planet’s way of saying: “I know you’re destroying me, but I forgive you”. Heading to the tube before it’s light of a winter morning feels almost clandestine, and therefore fun. The other day I walked along the nondescript Gunterstone Road in West Kensington at about 5pm, in darkness and freezing cold rain with nobody about, and felt somehow completely in tune with London.

But Christmas itself is a recurring nightmare, in an almost literal sense: it’s terrifying in its banality, in the promise of excitement and fun broken into a million smashed fairy lights by being the same year after year after year after year after year after year and if you’re wondering when this sentence will stop you’re experiencing my life at about 2pm on 25 December.

Still, at least there’s New Year’s Eve to look forward to, and London’s spectacular free firework display. Sydney is widely regarded as putting on one of the best global displays of fireworks each December, and despite the Australian economy currently circling the bowl, it manages to resist the urge to charge people for the right to stand in a public space and look upwards. The glorious legacy of Boris Johnson spelled out in a thousand Catherine Wheels will read: “HAPPY NEW YEAR, SPONSORED BY HSBC”.

So here’s the festive season, back again, measuring mortality by annually reducing the finite number of Brussels sprouts left to be eaten before we die. But consider this: London is a city of so much variety, things to do day and night from Hillingdon to Havering, Barnet to Bromley, that there’s no point putting so much time and effort into one single day of sheer inconsequence. The rest of the country is rubbish, so let them have Christmas; bothering with it at all here seems utterly perverse when London is like Christmas every day.

Last Updated 18 December 2014

Sarah

My sentiments entirely.

Irene

Amen mate, been puking goddamned cheer for a lifetime, I have actually been told I'm dead inside for hating Xmas... not to mention Xmas lunches at work

Paul

Come and join us at Crisis@Christmas, do a couple of volunteer days for the best craic with the guests & other volunteers, then write another article Chris.

hostile_17

THANK YOU! I have always hated Christmas, but my ability to cope with this nonsense is even less than than non-existent now. The fact that it started in early SEPTEMBER is part of the issue. if it was 3 weeks, I'd put up with it. but almost FOUR MONTHS. Argh.

You said banality, and I think that's it exactly. I do so many wondrous things in London all year round, so I see no point in doing 'designated drinking' with colleagues and paying an arm and a leg to listen to Mariah Carey wailing like a harpooned cat for an evening.

Then EVERYTHING is festive. Festive shopping, festive drinks, festive music, festive markets, festive festive effing festive. Whack the word festive in it, and you have a new product! What exactly is a festive drink? I had a drink as it happens to be near Christmas, so that's now suddenly festive?

Which leads me to my pet hate of all, is the banal marketing. I mean really... REALLY you are going to send me a marketing email joking about getting socks for Christmas. Is this "joke" still going? It seems it is. There are still marketing people who think this is an original message for the sheep customers. Cliché 101. Oh yes... give grandma her sherry, while dad falls asleep in front of the TV. And aunt Mable eats a mince pie! Then a game of charades followed by watching designated Christmas TV after we hear what "Christmas Number One" is blah blah blah.

It's the complete banality of it all. I countdown until this crap is over, but then we have to put up with new year's resolutions and "January detoxes" for people living their lives on the rails dictated by others.

I'll shut up now.

Iolanda

I agree completely. All this rush, mess, being in a hurry for THE day makes Xmas my anti-holiday time and any year I look forward to Epiphany day... long period for suffering over here in Italy!
In the beginning of this month I was in London and while rushing impossibly trying to avoid people crowding for shopping in Oxford Strret, wearing so naturally Santa hats, or the jumpers I had already seen in Bridget Jones movies, I said to myself "Ph, gish, I love this people (the Brits), I really DO... but I can't get along with all this passion of theirs about Christmas!!
It's Christmas time again, but why do we "really" like it as this? Being Southern (Mediterranean I mean) I am not a winter type... by the way I'd rather go and spend this season time lost somewhere in a snow white landscape and find the real sense of cosiness and warm spirit then be in all this.
Yes, with a thought of being privileged and with respect to all those - more and more - whose Christmas will not be that warm and cosy...

Sue from Clogland

I almost thank all of the gods that Holland doesn't really kick into Christmas mode until we've had 5th December and Saint Nicholas (ancient Turkish priest) with his blackamores shoved down out throats along with the chocolate alphabet letters, almond paste filled cookies which seem to flow on towards the New Year, and the unbearable mountain of toys and unnecessary gifts given to some of the most undeserving children (including one or two of my own grandchildren!) I've ever met up with.

6th December usually sees pavements outside the flower shops being cleared for the inevitable pine trees and the muzak tape is changed immediately from the 'Sint' noises to the 'Santa' ones.

Sadly I've actually begun to see Christmas rear it's head in October here and there so guess it won't be long before we follow the Brits (I'm an ex pat hailing from London so am allowed to be a tad nauseated by my country men and women!!) and start seeing tinsel in the stores in September. I wonder why someone hasn't thought to introduce a summer Christmas sale yet or perhaps they have already somewhere on the other side of the Channel.

I love eating roast turkey, as I do roast lamb, roast pork, roast chicken and roast beef and frequently join my husband and youngest daughter in a traditional British Sunday lunch here in the west of Holland. But it doesn't necessarily have to be served 25th December!

My eldest daughter and her Irish husband living in the north of Holland were put on notice a few years ago when I said we would buy our grandchildren only ONE present each in future and their parents nothing at all (we've all gone down that road when you never know what to buy for someone and end up giving them a stupid gift rather than nothing at all just so's you don't have them feel 'left out'!!).
Even though they agreed and said how sensible we were, I've just received a large box full of brightly wrapped 'gifts' which have taken over the whole of the space under our modest tree (same one comes out every year including the lights and balls!!)

The Dutch, but thankfully not all, tend to go out of their way to become inebriated around this time of year, sadly aping their British peers and have been slowly going over the top with each passing year so that I long for 1st January when everything becomes quiet and I wonder how much of the silence is related to a hangover.

I was brought up by east end of London parents in Essex (nope - I don't own white stilettos!!) who didn't have an excess of money.
We relished the special things to eat like the smoked salmon sandwiches dad made after a trip into London's Portabello Road for 2 ounces, or the head of salad and tomatoes mum presented with our cold cuts on Boxing Day.
Hard work coupled with a huge dose of life luck means I could easily order a full Christmas hamper from Harrods if I choose to but prefer to roast a 4 kilo turkey and serve this with the usual sprouts, carrots and roast spuds like my mum dished up to us more than 60 years ago.
If I drink more than 2 glasses of Prosecco (so much more drinkable and tasty than French champagne!!) I know I'll fall asleep with my head bent at a dodgy angle at some point during one of the many choices of films on TV so prefer to drink good old water-out-of-the-tap and keep both head and stomach ailments due to over indulgence as far away as possible.
Yes - we celebrate Christmas but in the same way we eat a Sunday family roast dinner with each other with only the addition of a fake tree standing in one corner of the room whilst we watch an old movie although I have recently put a ban on Scrooge which is unfortunately one of my husband's favourites!
We just enjoy being together for a few hours and don't need an excess of food or drink to enhance our time with each other.
I abhor and hate the marketing at this time or any time of year and all TV ads have an ADverse reaction - sorry no pun intended. I never understood the need for office parties even when I worked in London and only took my eldest daughter to one special ballet (Nutcracker of course!) in the UK and both daughters to the same ballet in Rotterdam 6 years later. We never followed the 'panto' trail and a night out to watch a musical or concert can be enjoyed at any moment of the year and without having to fight for a parking slot because every man's family wants to go see the same 'show' at that particular time of year.
Roll on January and then we can all start praying for freezing weather so we can have the Dutch 11 city skating event shoved down our throats!!

PTC Photo

im not one for christmas, its a load of hassle, stress and spending on tat no one needs! i get told off by the wife for not getting into the spirit, what spirit? we arent living in a West London Dickensian gas lamp fantasy, just London 2014 full of gob, trash, old mattresses and far far too many people, there are 364 other days of the year for "giving" why do you need John bloody lewis to remind you??

Chris West

I agree with much of what you say, more importantly, Charles Dickens would have and, like you, said so non stop, in many of his novels. Have a look at this Londonist video, then come over to St Katharine Docks and we'll have a beer together. http://londonist.com/2014/12/v...

You Know It Makes Sense

Ban Christmas!

Robert Yesuk

we;; all i can say is that as you have a big loving family in Eltham you can count yourself lucky most wont be around much longer.... I have just 2 brothers left as family one with terminal cancer so your nasty sad remarks are just sickening & im disgusted at the Londonist publishing such childish bile so close to Christmas