Moving on from my experiences of playing Joseph in a French speaking version of the Nativity I always wonder at this time of year what the Christmas experience actually means in terms of religious significance to the majority of us. Of course it's easy these days to dismiss the whole religious aspect as being something of an intrusion into a Pagan festival but until the advent (no pun intended) of the Interweb I wasn't that aware of Pagan rituals, beyond of course Britt Ekland's arse and Edward Woodward being sacrificed on a remote Scotiish island in the classic film The Wicker Man.
I've never been to church at Christmas as far as I can remember, when I was a small child members of the family would go to Midnight Mass but the closest I came was going to see a concert of Christmas carols at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens in the early 1970's. The big thing is of course the family, it's the time of year when we spend time with people we have tried to avoid the rest of the year and then when we realise how much we actually enjoy their company we say, "we should do this more often," and then go another year without seeing them.
There are of course those people for whom avoiding the relatives isn't an option. During my lifetime the Christmas Experience has become entwined with the television experience, not just Morecambe and Wise, Sherlock, Fools and Horses (I still haven't seen a whole episode of that) but the Queens Speech (I've never seen a whole one of those) and Noel Edmonds who let's face it has to do something this time of year with a name like that. We've managed to develop a sort of house rule over the years that if we are at home on Christmas Day the television won't go on until the early evening, funnily enough when I was a child the television didn't go on at all on Christmas Day at home, we spent the whole day with relatives and presents.
This year we didn't switch on the box in the corner until 8 in the evening and then it was to watch a DVD, when we ventured into the 'real world' at just after ten I was disappointed to discover how much was actually worth watching on the 300 plus channels available. It's not so much a case of TV being the opium of the masses but the fact that sometimes you just want to put your brain in neutral and let it all wash over you. The problem for me was that post 10 p.m TV this year seemed to be the visual equivalent of turning up at the UK Butchers Convention and finding out that the only thing left on the buffet was asparagus vol au vents.
Of course you don't have to be actively participating in religion to appreciate the effort put in by those for whom this is the second biggest day on the calendar (in my experience Easter is actually more important than Christmas for those with religion in their souls) and whilst I personally might be cynical about the whole thing I wouldn't want to belittle those who care about it.
So whatever you celebrated, whether it was religion, Christmas sales, Pagan worship or the sheer relief of doing bugger all for a couple of days I hope it was enjoyable. And for Gildy and his Mum I hope that 2012 brings you both better health.