Friday, 24 December 2010

Snow | Mini Essay | Claus-trophobia, by Tash Hodgson

He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake.
Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town, by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie

Bringing her children up in a hopelessly Godless household, my mother was forced to call upon the eternal power of Father Christmas in order to keep us from turning feral. Not willing to have us exposed to the major faiths of the world but more than happy to spin us her own, hand-crafted psuedo-cult, we were told from a young age that Santa Claus – the hairy guy hoarding all the Sega Megadrives – was an all-seeing, all-knowing bad-man. She would have monthly, excessively loud phone conversations with him (charges reversed, obviously) in the kitchen, about how me and my brother ‘had been doing OK this year, but we’d have to see, wouldn’t we?’ as Joe and I looked on with terrified eyes, trying to figure out just how many stolen newsagent cola bottles constituted a lump of coal in place of Super Street Fighter. It was only when we got to the going-to-school age that I realised that our view of Father Christmas – a terrifying, malevolent phone-addict with great taste in computer games – wasn’t universal.

Of course, in Spain it’s the Three Kings, Gaspar, Melchoir and Balthazar, who dole out the presents and punishments. Three Sauron-esque overlords for the price of one. Mum would have bloody loved that, and I probably would have had a mental breakdown. In the Basque country it’s Olentzero, an overweight chap sporting a jaunty beret who comes bearing gifts – but he smokes a pipe, and Ma wouldn’t have been happy with him dirtying the curtains. Hungary would have been no good to her, as Father Christmas turns up on the 6th December and until Jesus arrives on the 24th there seems to be a terrifying 17-day no man’s land of suspended morality. She’d have to have been a fool to agree to such terms. In Latvia he brings a gift a day for the 12 days of Christmas (too much effort) and in Russia you’ve got the whole Orthodox Church calendar business to fuss about with. In Italy, we’d be dealing with generous old crone La Befana as well as big daddy C and in Austria it’s a Christ child (das Christkind) who does all the heavy lifting. She could have just stripped it down to the bare bones and pretended the fourth century Greek Bishop Saint Nicholas was going to throw some money through our windows, but to be honest, I grew up in Warrington; believing in flying reindeer was one thing, believing some bloke would throw something that wasn’t on fire through your window was entirely another.

In the end, it seemed I worshipped a mongrel deity formed of myth, legend, fact and (mother-spawned) fiction. A jolly, portly Englishman (hats off to the Ghost of Christmas Present) with large beard (thanks Odin), who sported a red cloak (copyright Coca Cola) and gave gifts hidden in stockings (see: Saint Nick). He definitely either comes from the North Pole (thank you American cartoonist Thomas Nast) or Lapland (an idea apparently originating in a 1920s children’s radio show that went by the cheerful name of Markus-sedän lastentunti, or ‘Children’s hour with Uncle Markus’). He, obviously, always had his phone to hand (mother Hodge) and tried to trick you by only asking for one carrot to be put out on Christmas eve when he really expected twelve – one for each reindeer (my own hyperventilating five-year-old paranoia that forced my mother to do an extra vegetable run on Christmas eve).

Will I be passing down this patchwork-dark-lord version to my own spawn, if and when they turn up? I’d love to say no. It would be lovely to believe that I could patrol my kids with nothing more than a guiding hand towards an innate sense of right and wrong, softly tempered by smiling generosity and devastating good looks. But I’m afraid newsagents worldwide would go bust from the explosion in shoplifting. Sorry kids. If it helps, I’ll make sure we stock up on carrots.

Tash Hodgson

Tash edits the splendid film review blog, Best For Film, which has been running a competition throughout December called ‘Write Christmas’ that I believe you’re still good to enter until midnight tonight. The idea is basically to compose a review of the greatest Christmas film never made. Further details here. Entries so far here. All of which are well worth a Christmas Eve read, especially Santassassin, The Wrong Kind Of Snow and Sand For Snow.

And with that, the final candied orange segment of our condensed week of seasonal content, Silkworms shuts up shop for a few days – although I daresay we might toss out a spot of Wider Reading content, like so much pantomime confectionary, between Boxing Day and New Year. See you in January 2011 everybody, and thank you all so much for contributing, commenting, illustrating, reading, listening, admiring, critiquing or at the very least acknowledging our existence over the past few months. Merry bloody Christmas,

James, Phil, Jon and Sam

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