Friday, 25 December 2009


Here we are again, the unavoidable 25th! I wouldn't mind Christians celebrating the supposed birth of Christ (though if his birthday was noted at all it would have been in the Hebrew calendar), but why did they allow the festival of the mother and babe to be replaced by the festival of the red-cloaked Father, symbol of the economic power of the male? The most amazing thing is that most of the work of this festival of patriarchy is done by women; not only do they do much of the present-buying but they also have to do most of the cooking.

My mother was not an ardent feminist, but she always signed her presents 'Mother Christmas'. That was after I had discovered the awful truth; at the age of six I found my infant scrawl to Father Christmas in the bottom drawer of my parents' desk. I did not cease to cross-examine my poor mother until she had admitted that she was the bringer of presents. I felt deeply aggrieved at this deception, and my faith in my parents was badly dented.

The other thing that gave me a lifelong dislike of Father Christmas was his supposed method of entry, down the chimney. I had been told and re-told the story of the wolf and the three little pigs, in which the wolf gets into the house by the same route, and I knew there were foxes in the garden. Father X became intimately tangled in my mind with these terrible carnivores. It was one thing to hear about a wolf in a faraway country eating little pigs; it was quite another to know that our own chimney had been used by Father X, and it meant that a fox might come the same way to get me. It was only when I actually saw a fox, not much bigger than a cat, that I finally shook off this phobia. Moral: do not lie to children!

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