Another day, another post inspired by drink. I decided this week – Christmas week, of all weeks! – to take part in the WordPress Daily Writing Challenge and try to write a post every day until New Year’s Day. In this I have signally failed having neglected to post anything yesterday, on Boxing Day. I’ll make no excuses and just carry on in the hope that no-one will notice.
So, as I said, another post using drink as a starting point. Since my previous two posts have been about alcohol and tea respectively, I looked in the refrigerator this morning and, quite naturally, decided today’s post should be about milk.
The first thing that I thought on opening the fridge door was that we currently have a surfeit of the white stuff. What’s surprising about this is that we didn’t order any more from the milkman than our normal amount. We’re not a household that panic-buys for the whole endless long-distance … one day of Christmas Day: you won’t find me manically hurtling round the supermarket with a trolly-load of sliced bread and Quality Street on December 24th.
The only conclusion I can draw from this excess is that we have used less milk over Christmas than we would under normal circumstances, even though we had a houseful of guests. And this set me to thinking about why there’s a drive toward overindulgence, excess and general over-doing things during the festive season. This is a question that Mrs B and I have been addressing directly over the past few years, and we are now at the stage where we have achieved a very streamlined celebration. We never have too much food; this year’s leftovers consisted of four sprouts and a few potatoes. (We deliberately ensured that we had meat left over to be used in meals for the rest of the week.)
We have adopted, in collusion with our relatives, the policy of giving only two good quality presents to each other rather than an avalanche of unwanted impulse gifts. This works very well, and everyone is very happy with the arrangement. It has had the not altogether surprising benefit of shifting the focus of Christmas Day from gift giving and receiving to a more social atmosphere free from the speculation over what consumer items one might receive. Of course, this all ties in to this time of austerity, and is in part a reaction to the untrammelled greed of modern western society, which is wholly disgusting and vile to my sensibilities.
This reining in of the consumerist impulse, coupled with a more social and human aspect of the Christmas celebrations ultimately leads to an examination of one’s spiritual approach to this time of year. I count myself as unreligious in that I am indifferent to religion: I am not hostile to it. I think religions can be, and for the most part are, very positive forces in human society. The current vogue for scientific fundamentalism I find as distasteful as any aggressively oppositional and reductive (i.e. ‘science good, religion bad’) discourse.
I would count myself as a person of faith without allegiance to any dogmatically principled organisation. I believe that there are a great many people like myself in the world. What I seek from my spiritual leanings is better understanding of the human condition, and my approach, at all times, but also when applied to Christmas, is a strongly principled society of free individuals who can associate with or tolerate others without allowing the prejudice of one single aspect of another person’s individuality to unfairly influence their acceptance of them. In short, to each their own. Being a nominal part of a Christian society I guess you could say I practice ‘Christian charity’.
Of course this all points to a code of ethics which recognises that not everyone celebrates Christmas in the same way, if at all. As such I prefer the approach of learning how to be a more thoughtful, social, giving and charitable person which the lens of Christmas brings into sharper focus than perhaps at other times of year.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in a debate which has gone on and will go on for many years. I hope that I have communicated my views clearly in this post and that you find some parallels with your own truths. However, it only remains for me to encourage you to enjoy the remainder of Christmas, with all the nuances of meaning and complication of perspective that that entails. And if we fail to be less acquisitive in the new year, perhaps we can strive to be more human.