This article was written by an Irish supporter of the Bevin Society, who lives in Dublin. It first appeared in an Irish newspaper for Christmas 1988.
It is well established that the Winter Solstice was a celebration long before Christianity. No one has any idea when Jesus was born, but if the story about the shepherds is true it could not have been so late in the year. Christmas as we now know it evolved in the 19th century, out of a variety of Christian, pagan and folk traditions.
by Anne Spicer
I am a firm believer in the traditional Christmas celebration that is the celebration before the Christians got at it. The turning of the year, the fertilization of mother earth as the rays of the new born sun strike into her womb at Newgrange and other places seems far more appropriate as a metaphor for renewal and a celebration of the cycles of existence than the joyless Christian conception.
I suppose the sight of Cliff Richard this year singing of the joys of children when he’s an avowed celibate himself must be symbolic of where the original meaning has been lost or written out of the books.
We do our best, we fill the house with holly and ivy, male and female symbols respectively, the evergreen standing tree gets pride of place and we feast and make merry. The opportunities for ritual fornication are sadly reduced in modem life but it is good to see that many people are rediscovering in varied forms the roots of the festivity.
The queues of men and women at the lingerie counters is the most cheering sight and here I must register a vote of thanks to Penneys. They have never been given full credit for the democratisation of sexuality they have brought about Working class women can now deck themselves out in the most erotic gear at a fraction of the cost of such things in up-market stores, and whoever says its only the men who care for such frills should think of getting out a bit more.
This is also boom time for the blue-movie trade – along with films for the kids. We can’t have gangs of men (Cock Robins) rambling around chasing women (Jenny Wrens) – or being chased – as the case may be, the neighbours would think it was a cider party or something. The modem substitute is the frills and the blue movie, the whiskey and the beer, and indeed the festivities go with a bang none-the-less.
We are a family of free-thinkers so Santa gets great publicity in our house. Apart from supplying the magic children need, we feel that the day of reckoning when Santa is seen through adult eyes is a valuable psychological lesson for life and superstition generally.
My husband does most of the cooking while I do most of the tidying up. I am not at all sure I get the best end of this arrangement mind you, and the less said about his carving the better. No sacrifice is spared to tire the children out during the day so we can have the evening to ourselves, although this backfired one year when he fell asleep putting the baby off to sleep anyway.
We don’t believe in this bull that Christmas is just for Children; mind you, I’m not sure anyone else does either. Even those who load up their trollies with toys etc. had the gleam of a lost childhood in their own eyes. I think that many of them enjoy the whole thing as much if not more than the ultimate recipients.
At least this Christmas there is another female in the house. My husband got me a kitten as a present, and we are all busy trying not to say ‘he’ all the lime, its difficult in a household with husband, three boys and myself. We will not neuter it till it’s had offspring. I question those people who call themselves animal lovers and yet deny their perpetuation; a teddy bear would suit them better. They remind me of the vegetarians who wear leather shoes (and they all do).
As for the New Year, our household looks forward to it with our usual optimism and holds out great hope in the good nature of humanity. The seasonal wishes of our good pagan ancestors expressed in the version of the carol The Tree of Life’ be with you:
O the rose, the gentle rose,
The prickles strong as the thorn!
O may maids find true hearts to love
So their children can be born!
This article appeared in November 1989, in Issue 14 of Labour and Trade Union Review, now Labour Affairs. For more, see https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/very-old-issues-images/