When I was a kid I lived in a house a few doors down from a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They had a daughter my age and she and I used to hang out together sometimes, plaiting each others hair, making up dances to Thriller and shoplifting. You know, kids stuff.
I knew nothing about their religion, and only began to care once she told me that she didn’t celebrate Christmas or Birthdays.
“YOU MAY AS WELL BE DEAD THEN!” I probably cried, flinging myself onto her bed. “For what is a life, nay an existence without the joy, the celebratory buoyancy of these simple, beloved days?”
I was a fairly precious child, and a pain in the arse.
I didn’t get it. I was seven. There was a lot I didn’t get. I didn’t get how blue coloured sweets made me feel as though I could bounce around like a gremlin for hours then give me a headache and make me cry. I didn’t get why Coronation Street had a theme tune like a sad man dragging a sackful of puppies to the canal to drown them. I didn’t get that the man who appeared in the park while me and my friends were doing handstands in our dresses took our photos and told us it was going to appear in a ‘children’s book’. I just thought I was going to see my pants in print. Never happened.
I just thought they didn’t like Christmas enough. So I decided to change all that. I spent several evenings during November of 1984 making them Christmas cards and handmade decorations. I did an impressive ‘Mary on a donkey heading to Bethlehem’ picture in coloured biro and took it over for her mum. I wrapped (shambolic) homemade gifts. Toilet roll snowmen. Cut out Snowflakes. A glittery Christmas tree. Tickets to the Nativity play.
I just thought I could make them like Christmas enough they would learn to love it, like the heart-warming end of a Christmas film, or something directed by Richard Bloody Curtis. Of course it didn’t happen. I’m not sure but I think they started avoiding me after that, and I was reduced to slipping Christmassy good wishes and cracker jokes beneath their door.
Still, they’ve got Prince and what do I have? Cliff Richard. Thanks a lot, Christianity.