Seasonal Affective Distemper

By Stephen ‘Mid’ Middleton

It is an exceptionally virulent influenza which the Godly call pre-ordained.  It infects millions the world over, once anually, and it is punctual to within 24 hours.  It is highly contagious, transmitted by human culture and there is no known cure.  The individual will contract the illness by the time they are 12 months old and having been infected there is over a 90% certainty that they will suffer regular periodic relapses for the rest of their natural life.
What is this pernicious disease?  TB?  AIDS?  SARS?  Ebola?  Oh, for Christ’s sake it’s Christmas?  What I want to know is where the hell did it come from and who are the felons most responsible.
The safe verdict is that its foreign.  Well, the trimmings incontestibly are.  Yes folks, fir trees, lanterns, carols, sleigh bells, cards, reindeer, Kris Kringle, Santa Claus, presents, St. Nicolas and the Yuletide log – God forbid should we ever forget that – are all exported to England from Germany and Scandinavia along with ABBA, Ikea, two world wars and a big, fat, bull-necked, double-chinned king, who responded to the name of George.  Incidentally, the Top Of The Pops Christmas hit is, however, a very British crime.  Cor Blimey!  I bet right now, poor old Josef Goebbels is sieg heiling in his unknown grave, kicking himself with his one good leg, looking back with the deepest regret, rueing the day, wishing that he could’ve been the one to come up with something so devilishly effective at dumbing the minds of the hysterical masses quite like the rush of Crimbo.
But wait!  Hang a bauble on a minute!  If these are just the circumstantial details then who in the Dickens draughted the plan?  The answer to this lies long ago when the whole of Europe was just an annex to a city-state empire.  Throughout ancient Rome on the 17th December a festival would take place to commemorate the dedication of the god of harvest, the agriculturally bountiful Saturn.  Saturnalia proved so popular it was extended to a week in spite of attempts by the quasi-puritanical Emperor Augustus to fence it down to three days; and later Caligula, mad as a hare at the Ides of March, who tried unsuccessfully to enforce it to five.  Ho, ho, ho!  How history repeats itself.
During the 3rd Century AD. Saturnalia was superceded by another festival with widespread mass appeal.  Sol Invictus, literally translated as ‘Unconquered Sun’, occurred shortly after midwinter solstice when the light of day was observed to become noticeably longer.  It was a festival dedicated to the Roman ‘state supported sun god’.  Mmm…  Does the Church of England and the establishment ring any of those little sleigh-bells yet?  And, guess what?  Sol Invictus was celebrated on none other than 25th December.  So there we are…
Well, well, well!  What a surprise!  Quite frankly I would be sorely disappointed in my expectations if the civilisation that brought us ritualised brutality, legitimate slavery, respectable incest and recreational paedophilia had not have invented the vacuous commerce-fest and temporary suspension of collective intelligence that you and I know to be Xmas.
Bugger me with a sprig of holly the size of the tower of babel!  I don’t mean to break entry through the windows of my advent calendar but there’s something missing!…  A wandering star, three wise men, a stable, a crib…  little baby Jesus.  In an effort to adopt and absorb the irrepresible customs of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus – and what a supremely successful effort it was too! – academics believe that Pope St. Julius I who held Papal office from February 6th 337 to April 12th 352 AD. was the person most responsible for orchestrating the Christianisation of the Roman pagan midwinter festival; much like prizing the badge of a Skoda and replacing it with a Porsche.  Later in the fourth century Christian clerics decided to institute Jesus’s birth as a holiday and after consulting with their diaries scheduled it for…  yep, you’re absolutely right – December 25th.  Oh, what a good idea.  The fact that there is irrefutably no scriptual reference whatsoever in any version of the Bible which even so much as alludes to keeping a birthday party on behalf of little baby Jesus didn’t seem to trouble the conscience of the embryonic church one iota.  Never the ones to let a cartload of truth get in the way of the greatest story ever told.
First mentioned as the Feast Of The Nativity it had spread to Egypt by 472, England by the 6th Century and by the Eighth all the way to…  Oh, yes.  It had to be…  Scandinavia.  Relativity!  What goes around comes around – well pull my phallic cracker!  Now of course its everywhere; planes, trains and automobiles, air, sea and land; passed down from generation to generation like some rotten, ghastly, genetically inherited, cultural muliple-sclerosis.
So, what then does the future have in store for this farcical uncomic operetta?  I’ll conclude if I may with a philosophic opinion.  The status of your Christmas is becoming increasingly judged not so much by what you have but by what you don’t need, and what’s more to the point what you can afford to throw away; the bigger the bin the better you are.  Happy New Year…  I hope so!

(More about Mid)


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