This year, more than ever, people seem to be obsessed with Christmas, mostly due to the fact that Covid-19 may play the actual Grinch and steal it. I fully understand that after this harrowing year, one simply wants to gather with one’s loved ones, finding hope and comfort in the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life. One of my most joyous moments of the year is when I decorate my home, on EXACTLY the 1st December, usually to the sounds of Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, which is and will forever be the greatest holiday album of all time.
Yet. Let’s face it, December, in all its gooey sentimentality, is like a box of cherry liqueur chocolates. You’d never buy one for yourself but you feel like you have to be grateful and enjoy it, even though it’s shoved down your throat for commercial intent and makes you queasy. Being a kid, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the best days of the year, when parents let you stay up late and watch silly movies, play with you and genuinely want you to feel happy. Growing up, the cracks start appearing in the sugar-coated varnish, drunken uncles, disappointing presents, fake smiles all round…
For many, it is also a stark reminder of one’s loneliness. When I was a young adult and hated Christmas, a friend of mine reconciled me with it by making me a mixtape which included all the hits, but also the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight)”, which started a lifelong passion for Christmas music. Many artists acknowledge the depressing side of things, therefore making one feel less like an outcast for disliking the artificial ‘magical’ Christmas spirit. For every Mariah Carey, there is a Shane McGowan or a Tom Waits you’d rather spend the evening with. In 2011, Gruff Rhys published an Atheist Xmas EP, which featured the track “Post Apocalypse Christmas” – a perfect soundtrack for this year. So as much as I love classical festive albums by Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys or the Carpenters, this collection is for the Christmas rebels and misfits, from the misanthropic “Child Psychology” with it’s depressing spray on snow, to Bob Dylan’s Grinchy sounding rendition of “Here Comes Santa Claus”.
Back in 2005, the Long Blondes sang “Christmas is Cancelled This Year” (unfortunately not available on streaming platforms), and I sincerely hope it won’t be, because otherwise I won’t be able to grin and bear it whilst listening to Phil Spector (whom I can never imagine with anything other than the wig he wore during his trial) wishing us all the very merriest of Christmases, and the happiest of New Years.