Christmas is the worst time of the year and you’re all soft in the head for enjoying it. Or I’m just a spectacular Stooge who could do with a cuddle and a biscuit.
Ah, Christmas! The happiest time of the year, full of seasonal joy and goodwill to all, right? Well, no. It’s a pretty horrific time of year, to be honest. It’s a riot of over consumption and greed. It’s not about having plenty – it’s about having ever-more and, crucially, more than other people. That dovetails nicely with a society already gruesomely accepting of inequality. The muppets sing their Christmas carol, and you’re just as much of a muppet if you celebrate with them.
All that capitalist selling and buying means that crime rates in Bogotá increase too. Lots of people receive a bonus (prima) at the end of the year, which is usually paid in mid-December. That means lots of people walking around with big target signs on their backs. And that’s not all. The festive season sees some of the year’s most violent days, because it turns out that for all the rhetoric over familial closeness, most Colombian families are as dysfunctional as anywhere else in the world.
Poor old Jesus must be quite surprised that his casting out of the moneylenders has been somewhat ignored these days. After all, commercialism and capitalism reign roughshod over practical issues as soon as the Halloween decorations come down. Those that can’t afford to buy presents for their children are encouraged to buy anyway, even if it means going without basics or going into hock with the bank.
Snowpeople and reindeer are vomit-inducingly awful in Britain, but at least we have snow. The jarring image of Arctic beasts underneath palm trees isn’t cute, it’s a sign of incredible laziness and cultural imperialism. Can’t Colombia come up with an original idea for Xmas decorations, rather than kowtowing to an ideal from Europe/the US? Just because our cultures are regrettably dogmatic in pushing things on you, doesn’t mean you have to accept them.
I almost forgot about natilla. Great. That curdled slime is something to look forward to, as well as the joy of novenas. Not just singing in public, but singing in a group. Stomach-turningly awful – like karaoke. Not only is it people singing songs not as well as the original, this time they’re not even singing good songs in the first place. ‘Ven ven, Belén?’
Environmental damage? Yes, indeed. Those mountains of gifts come with a LOT of plastic surrounding them as well as all kinds of other packaging nonsense. And don’t forget, half of them are unwanted gifts anyway, so they’re not even useful plastic future ocean deathtraps. Tinsel is ugly around the tree; it’s even uglier around a dolphin’s nose.
Then of course, there’s the relentless pressure to be included, to be as good as everyone else. “Buy your children something better than their mates,” shriek the shrill adverts! There’s always a newer phone or bigger TV, something to make your dismal day-to-day grey grind of despair just that tiny bit better than it was before. Except, it won’t, because there’ll inevitably arrive something better in a matter of weeks. This manufactured need for greed is definitely not following Christ’s message. And think of what will happen in January – all those goods will be sold at their real price as a ‘discount’ for the army of wide-eyed bobbleheads zombie-stumbling to the shops.
Yep, it’s a pretty grim time to be in Bogotá, although there are even worse places around the world. This is one of the times I think about going and living far from the reach of Christianity. But you *can* take back some of the Christmas spirit. Why not think about some charity work, or maybe make some Christmas spirit donations to charities or even just direct to those in need? Try convincing your friends not to give you presents and to go without themselves. And most of all, try consuming less yourself? I may have a dim view of religion in general, but it does have some good morals in it. More importantly yet, you don’t need to believe in the God bit to perform Christian charity, you just have to be a good person.
Oli Pritchard has been writing for The Bogotá Post since the very first edition. He’s tried his hand at every section from news to sport – including our only attempt at satire. Now we’ve let him off the leash and given him his very own column. He hasn’t got the tagline of ‘gives it to you straight’ yet.