TIS the season to be jolly and I had to laugh when I read a Paul McCartney interview about a Christmas before the Beatles were famous.
John Lennon had trouble with his sight but would often keep his glasses in his pocket to look cool. One day he told Paul that when he had walked home the night before he had seen the most amazing sight – a whole family sitting outside playing cards.
Paul retraced his route – and the family was still there. It was a nativity scene.
The start of December is the start of the celebration of Christmas, with Advent calendars and nativity scenes. Nativity scenes are meant to be peaceful and sum up the spirit of the birth of Christ.
Advent Calendars used to have 24 windows to open as a countdown to the big day. Each window revealed a poem or part of the story of the birth of Jesus.
These days, they are as commercialised as Christmas and calendars are about everything from pirate treasure to Moshi Monsters. Mind you, some children are very religious about collecting Moshi Monsters.
Marketing has become more cynical but I don’t think attitudes have changed that much.
I recall as a teenager going to catch the train home after a dance when I saw a rather threatening group of Teddy Boys.
To invoke the ambience of the season, particularly the bit about goodwill to all men, I paused at the life-sized nativity scene on the station forecourt.
The Teds joined me and we gazed together.
“How would you like to join Baby Jesus in His crib?” one of them murmured and as I attempted to find ways to decline his kind offer to throw me over the fence, a police car approached, they dispersed and I legged it for my train.
During the same period, I turned up very late at my local church for Midnight Mass and decided to wait outside until it was over.
The frost that night was deep and crisp and even and I saw no threat from the two young men who were weaving their way along the main road towards me.
I turned my back and stamped my feet against the cold and gazed at the church nativity scene when one of them hit me over the head with a bottle.
Fortunately the bottle didn’t break and I had rather a lot of hair to deflect damage. “What did you do that for?” I said.
The chap with the bottle looked nonplussed, possibly because it hadn’t broken, and said: “I don’t know.”
“Sorry,” said his chum, hurrying my attacker away as the congregation began to spill from the church.
“Merry Christmas,” he called, showing the spirit of the season was not totally dead.
Christmas has always been a rum time. A mixture of drunkenness, cross jostling, children’s fun, religious fervour and family get togethers.
I remember my disappointment when a girlfriend invited me to a party and I discovered it entailed elderly aunts, uncles, grandparents and Housey Housey. It put me off bingo for life.
The mix will undoubtedly be the same again this year although I shall avoid nativity scenes at closing time and playing cards outside at night.