"The True Meaning of Sweaters"
Those people who feel that they know me reasonably well will be aware that I am unlikely to be hugely excited by the whole concept of Christmas, at least in its current commercial incarnation. The idea that there is something pleasurable in traipsing round shops with thousands of other people spending ridiculous amounts of money on things that nobody needs but that may briefly distract them from the execrable output of all festive television channels in between the consumption of ludicrous quantities of food and drink is one that does not exert an irresistible attraction for me. I suspect that it does not hold an irresistible attraction for lots of other people too but that somehow we all become trapped into the preordained rituals that our society has decreed to be essential pillars of the festive season.
It would be wrong to suggest that all aspects of Christmas exert a similar anti magnetic force on me. I am all in favour of people being nice to each other, of families coming together, of a time when everyone can put down everyday issues at least for a brief space of time and for the opportunity to reflect upon matters that transcend our daily existence. Where I struggle is with the commercialism, the competition for ever bigger and better presents and the unrestrained marketing that drives these messages home for what seems like months. I am feeling guilty about taking Christmas as the subject for this week’s blog so far away from 25th but would claim as my alibi that I am so surrounded by its trappings that it is rising already to the forefront of our minds.
The apparently vital need to swap presents around, the value of which runs into hundreds or even thousands of pounds, is not something remembered from my youth. As a child one of my main presents each year was a sweater knitted by my mother. This was not a surprise; it commenced in late summer when she held various balls of wool against me in an effort to decide which would be most suitable, followed swiftly by the use of a tape measure to establish this year’s size (I never remember style being discussed as I think all sweaters looked the same). My mother then sat opposite me evening after evening knitting, before hiding the finished garment away in early December in readiness for wrapping and placing under the Christmas tree. The ability I developed during those years to convey surprise, astonishment and delight in equal portions when lifting the sweater from its wrappings suggested that a career in the theatre beckoned. They were good sweaters too, more than able to last the year round until the next one came along, something I would hazard a guess will not be true of many of the presents exchanged in a few weeks’ time.
There are those who say that Christmas is a magical time, a time of hope, of new beginnings and of mysterious surprises. I don’t know whether that is true or not but, whilst writing this blog, something really strange has happened. When I started, the story about my Christmas sweaters was intended simply to contrast the excess often apparent today with a very odd and rather foolish family ritual (my cousins got sweaters too) but, as it developed, I found myself thinking fondly of the time and the skill that went into each one and realised that the memory of these presents has stayed with me long after the recollection of others has receded into nothingness. When examining presents this year, a redirection of the “How much?” question away from “How much did it cost?” towards “How much thought / care / time / attention went into this?” may just signal a rolling back of the materialistic domination of the season. Or, if it’s clothing you’re after, you could insist on some True Religion Logan Super T jeans from Selfridges at £355.00 a pair; it would certainly be difficult to forget spending that amount of money