The Christmas Manifesto

Only recently I have read “The Communist Manifesto” (1848) by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.  Not to belittle the learned treatise, it has sparked a desire to promulgate my thoughts on what I consider important at Christmas, the eve of which is tomorrow.

A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government. A manifesto usually accepts a previously published opinion or public consensus and/or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes the author believes should be made. It often is political or artistic in nature, but may present an individual’s life stance.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Before attempting a summary of my view of the matter at hand I hasten to add one further literary reference, this time that of Dylan Thomas though not as you might expect “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” but rather “Fern Hill” wherein the author wrote:

Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Foremost about Christmas is the element of “good will to men”.  The metaphor of the Christian story is in its fundamental distillation the provision of a gift of good news for all.  Howsoever one views the religious tradition its significance of joy is inescapable and it thus lends itself wholeheartedly to the extension of friendliness.  The expression of this compassion is usefully made through Christmas cards and specially compiled Christmas letters.  As much as the elderly who have not kept up with computer technology may regret the advent of electronic Christmas cards they are nonetheless extremely efficient at achieving their objective and they permit a far more fluid communication than previously existed when regular mail was the only medium.  I do of course recall with warmth the memory of Christmas cards displayed throughout my parents’ home and later in the reception area of my place of business.  The cards even promoted social status if they were received from a Member of Parliament or some other recognizably important person, maybe even the Prime Minister himself.  Nonetheless the modern electronic Christmas cards admit to variations upon “status” if they are obviously the product of some complicated cybernetic construction, many of which are admittedly terribly clever and undeniably whimsical and often artistic.

Naturally the civility of wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” persists in almost every venue of our Western society.  I must say I particularly admire the exercise of the nicety when it manifests itself in a telephone call on Christmas morning between close friends.  Undertaking the duty in this manner nicely distinguishes it from the materialism which so commonly saturates a Christmas morning particularly where children are involved.  It also puts a meaningful distance between one’s friends and token gifts, again emphasizing the paramountcy of neighbourliness.

Society – whether confined to family and friends or whether it includes acquaintances and associates – is yet another distinguishing feature of Christmas.  The utter sadness provoked by the thought of someone being alone at Christmas is evidence enough of the proposition even if thought to be maudlin (though I honestly doubt that it is).  Every effort should be made to commingle with others at Christmas and no excuse however palpable under other circumstances should be tolerated.  For those who live under the cloud of potential loneliness at Christmas there is regrettably opportunity to forgo the pleasure of foregathering which is a tradition almost unique to Christmas. There are always circumstances convenient to thwart the Wassail – the weather, distance, declining energy after the Winter Solstice, abhorrence of frivolities, restrictive diets and alcoholic abstinence.  Granted there may be some merit in the objection but the value of community trumps even the most laudable dissent.

Notwithstanding the moral imperative of Christmas, most of us are admittedly bound by the tide of popular commercialism which has so insinuated the celebration.  Generally speaking I favour the myth of Santa Claus for young people (sugar plum fairies, toy trains, tinsel and sparkling lights).  The indulgence does however wane beyond the teens.  For those who by virtue of their historical kindness or personal efforts are entitled to recognition, Christmas is perhaps the best time of the year for making known one’s feelings.  Likewise people who are intimately involved or between whom strong sentiments otherwise exist, gift giving at Christmas is compatible with the Biblical reference to gold, frankincense  and myrrh.  Where however it fails to be a reiteration of the Christmas theme and merely a game of reciprocity or extravagance, it is utter nonsense and calculated only to diminish the experience, often resulting in preposterous adventures and unwanted outcomes.

Every other expression of Christmas benevolence is merely a variation on the theme of good will, whether kindness, charity or decency.  Underlying the whole is music of which there are so many adaptations peculiar to each individual’s private experience.

People of All Countries, Rejoice!