I’m burying my inner Grinch to embrace Christmas
I can't believe I'm going to write about Christmas.
Not least because I'll have to use the personal pronoun. Talking about yourself in a column is about as attractive as a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking. A sign of bad behaviour. But here goes.
Every year at this time when I walk down the Mall, I start to hate humans. All these fever-eyed junkies piled high with bags walking along in a fugue state; saturated with shopping.
The horror of people getting themselves deep into hock just to get more piles of useless crap that the kids will be bored with in two days.
Then - seriously, pretty much every year - I berate myself for falling for this hackneyed idea that Christmas has lost its meaning.
It's an idea put about by the crankypants who write letters to the editor or call talkback stations and complain about how the world's all gone to crap.
That Once Upon A Time Christmas was a magical day where everyone fed the poor in the morning before going to church then playing with their single present that may or may not have been a stick and hoop.
That myth is then contrasted sharply against today's vision of millions of mindless zombies guilt-shopping.
But it's just a ruse so that whoever is moaning about the True Meaning Of Christmas can feel morally superior about being a tight-arse.
Because the vast majority of people are neither zombies nor zealots. They're people for whom Christmas can bring any combination of hope and dread, love and loathing, peace or the raging shirrits.
Judging the people in the Mall for their consumerist ways is the height of hypocrisy, and I'll strive never to do it again. Because I'm a Christmas convert, a tinsel tragic.
I'm a pine-tree decorator (always real, sorry, environment), a chronic carol listener, a Secret Santa slut. Even though I stopped believing in Father Christmas at about the time I stopped believing in God (as a kid I thought they were the same guy), I really love Christmas.
I get excited when it's time to play Minchin's White Wine In The Sun or watch David Bowie and Bing Crosby sing Peace on Earth.
And I think buying presents is a worthy task with its own rewards.
It's agonising over what to get someone - not for victory or vindication, but because you have to delve into your history and humanity to think about your loved one.
(Spoiler alert, Dad). I dithered for weeks over what to get a Dad who's read everything and definitely doesn't need socks or jocks (although chocolates are always just fine by him).
And then had a Hallelujah! moment when I found out Stephen Fry has put together a tome retelling the Greek myths. Bingo!
I had another epiphany watching Jamie Oliver do things to roast potatoes with sage and olive oil because I think Mum will be vicariously proud when I cook the perfect spud because her mission in life is to show people how much she loves them through feeding them.
(I wrote nice things here about everyone else in my family then realised I was being self indulgent so I cut them out).
Most of those people elbowing their way to the specials shelf at Kmart are probably focused on family, too.
So I tried to bury my inner misanthrope deep down inside, thinking: I get to enjoy all that, friends and family and food, because I'm one of the most privileged people in the world. You probably are, too. Most Australians are immensely privileged.
We live in a rich, democratic, beautiful, free country that even Sugar Babe loving politicians haven't screwed up too badly.
We are literally the richest people on Earth, according to Credit Suisse's 2018 Global Wealth Report.
So Christmas should be about being grateful for that and then recognising that those riches are not evenly spread, but scattered around in lumps and smears. They miss some people almost entirely.
Most people actually do spend Christmas thinking about what other people need - whether that's Battleship LEGO or a bed, a turducken or a helping hand.
The original meaning of Christmas is tied to an odd supernatural tale about a child born in a manger to a Mary, who got impregnated by a ghost and then hit the road with her fellow Middle Eastern refugee Joseph.
That goes to show there is no True Meaning. Just a bunch of us humans muddling through as best we can.
For the lucky it's about friends and family, with faith as an optional extra. And of course, the food (maybe even little baby cheeses).
So Merry Christmas, I hope it's a good one - and if it's not, I hope next year gets better.
Tory Shepherd is State Editor for The Adelaide Advertiser.