TUMBY BAY - I come from a generation born in austerity. ‘Make-do’ was the order of the day.
In those what seem now like ancient days, Christmas represented something that now seems irretrievably lost.
Unfortunately, it all seems to be the result of modern human beings having a remarkable ability to subvert good things into bad things.
No matter how good something is, sooner or later someone will come along to take advantage of it for their own dubious ends. Christmas is a good example.
It is a celebration long observed throughout the Western world as the birthday of Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian faith.
The true date of his birth is uncertain. It has variously moved from May to April to January and then, in the fourth century to 25 December.
The end of December was already the season of various pagan festivals connected to the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere - when the Sun reaches its most southerly position.
This had been celebrated for thousands of years before the Christian era.
The early Christian churches found it advantageous to take over many of these old festivals and give them explicit Christian associations.
Christmas customs today preserve many features of the old pagan traditions: gift-giving, an old man giving gifts to children, Christmas carols, kissing under mistletoe, holly wreaths and the decoration of trees are just a few.
The solstice had always been greeted with special rejoicing and merry-making as the turning point of the year. It was an occasion for joyful family gatherings, kindness and hospitality.
People decorated their homes with bright green and red holly and collected mistletoe to hang over the outside doors to keep away evil spirits.
As a young boy I remember going into the forest near my grandparents’ farm looking for a young pine tree to cut for Christmas as well as holly and mistletoe to decorate their house.
In those days if you caught someone in the house standing under the mistletoe you could demand a kiss.
And on Christmas day there was the thrill of finding sixpences in the sweet fruity puddings that my grandmother had wrapped in muslin and begun boiling weeks earlier.
The custom of present-giving goes back to the days of the ancient Romans.
Santa Claus comes through the Dutch from Saint Nicholas who was the special friend and protector of children.
For a young boy in the early 1950s obsessed with Cowboys and Indians it was and still is the best Christmas present I’ve ever received. I might have even believed it was genuine and not made by my clever English grandfather.
Those days, simple and exhilarating, are long gone.
In the years after World War II, capitalism would eventually seize Christmas as a perfect marketing opportunity. Its pagan origins were of no concern.
Whether people saw the event as celebrating Christ’s birth or celebrating of the turning of the year was of no concern.
The subversion had begun. From a celebration of the spirit, Christmas turned into a celebration of consumption.
Then, as capitalism morphed into its present neo-liberal form of winner takes all, Christmas was supercharged and people began to subordinate what it represented from a celebration of the spirit to a festival of buying and excess.
For children nowadays, Christmas is all about gifts and for their parents it is all about indulgence, eating and drinking too much and hitting the shops in frenzied spending sprees.
From its spiritual and religious roots, Christmas has turned into a profane exercise in greed and consumerism.
What was good has been debauched and degraded.
I’m glad I was born before that happened.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to see and experience what Christmas is really about and should still be about.