‘The true meaning of Christmas…’

Surely, I cannot be the only person in the entire Universe, who actually regards ‘Christmas’ as the clean opposite of a ‘relaxing, care-free holiday season’… and unlike most of the others: I don’t even have any children of my own, to add to the anxiety!

As you may have already worked out for yourselves: I’m not exactly the type to get all ‘mushy’ and ‘sentimental’ at Christmas-time.

In fact, now that I think about it: I’m usually the type who doesn’t even notice that it’s Christmas-time, at all (until, of course, there are only around three hours left to actually do any Christmas shopping in: whereupon, I instantly transform into the equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger, from ‘Jingle All The Way’…).

This year was no different from any other: partly because… well, it’s not as though 2022 gave us very much in the way of ‘advance warning’, did it?

Just this morning, for instance [I’m writing this on December 22: supposedly, the ‘mid-winter equinox’], I took a walk along the Sliema seafront, and… in all honesty, there was precious little to indicate that the ‘tilt of Planet Earth is currently at its furthest from the Sun, in its entire annual orbit-trajectory’. (Translation: It’s the middle of freaking winter, folks! By rights, we should all be sitting at home, freezing our goddamn butts off!!)

Judging by all the people who were sunbathing on the rocks; or eating ice-creams; or even, in some extreme (most likely British) cases… actually SWIMMING...

I mean, who on earth could possibly blame me, for assuming that ‘Christmas’ was actually still around four whole months away (MONTHS, please note: not DAYS)?

Oh, OK: I’ll grant you that there were a few visual clues, here and there. That the streets were adorned with Christmas decorations, for instance. Looking back, I concede that should really have been a bit of a ‘dead giveaway’, all things considered…

But then again: how on earth am I expected to recognise those decorations as having anything whatsoever to do with ‘Christmas’… when they’re all about ‘snowmen’… and ‘icicles’… and ‘reindeer-drawn sleighs’… and… um.. ‘CHRISTMAS TREES’, for crying out loud?

Seriously, guys. How often do we have to go through this, anyway? It doesn’t actually ‘snow’ in Malta, remember? And not only are plants such as ‘Holly’ and (especially) ‘Mistletoe’ alien to the indigenous flora… but the last known ‘living Maltese tree’ was personally uprooted by former Transport Minister Ian Borg himself, back in August 2017, to make way for a spanking new, multi-lane flyover.

How can I put this? It’s just plain unrealistic, to light up streets with images of what ‘Christmas’ might look like, if we were all living in Svalbard, Norway; or the Yukon, Canada… when the reality is that we all live here in (worryingly) sunny Malta.

So please: how about injecting a tiny dose of realism, to next year’s Christmas decorations? Like, um… I don’t know: parked cars, perhaps? Or piles of garbage-bags accumulating on street-corners, as everyone gets confused about the new collection-days? (You know: the sort of stuff we can all actually RELATE to, for a change. Just a thought…)

But in any case: having overlooked the significance of all those ‘Christmas decorations’… and having (by the same thought-process) also assumed that the real reason most shops were playing Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’, was because… um… they actually LIKE that song?! (What can I say? This is a weird country, after all; stranger things have been known to happen…)

… I was suddenly assailed by the slenderest of doubts. What IS the actual date, anyway?

And, well: that’s when I finally realized it was NOT, as I had hitherto assumed, ‘around the 15th of June, at the latest’. Which of course, also precipitated my usual annual bout of… ‘AAARGH! It’s Christmas in just three days’ time!! I actually have to get my butt out there, and do some… SHOPPING!!!’

Which brings me to the part of Christmas I have always found the most puzzling: i.e., what do people actually mean when they talk about ‘the true spirit of Christmas’: or – even more bizarrely – when they describe it as ‘the season to be jolly’, or ‘of good cheer’?

Surely, I cannot be the only person in the entire Universe, who actually regards ‘Christmas’ as the clean OPPOSITE of a ‘relaxing, care-free holiday season’… and unlike most of the others: I don’t even have any children of my own, to add to the anxiety!

And that means: no additional ‘stockings to fill’; no school Christmas plays to have to reluctantly attend… in fact, I don’t even have to participate – at any level, whatsoever – in the annual preparations for Christmas lunch (for reasons that anyone who’s ever sampled my past culinary efforts would readily explain… provided they were still alive, of course).

But I suppose you can see where all this is heading: if even I can feel overwhelmed, by the sheer stress associated with the (cough, splutter!) ‘Holiday Season’… I shudder to even imagine what it must be like, for people with families to actually ‘organise Christmas for’.

This leads me to believe that there was more than just ‘a spell of unusually warm weather’, behind my failure to pick up on all those tell-tale Christmassy signs this week. In fact: only now do I understand that the real reason for all this malaise is that…

… we have all forgotten ‘the true meaning of Christmas’, that’s all.

But, never fear! Just as I started 2022 with a resolution to ‘always look on the bright side of life’: all that remains is for me to actually get out there, find out where this missing ‘Christmas spirit’ may be skulking… and drag it back here, kicking and screaming, once and for all.

And what better place to start looking, than in everyone’s favourite Christmas movies? So without further ado: here are two quick recommendations for this year’s Festive Season, which – you never know – may actually restore your ‘lost Christmas feeling’, too.

Here goes:

1) Home A-Loan

(A must-see, for every family that can still afford a TV set…)

Accidentally left to his own devices, when his Prime Minister took the rest of his government on a boat-trip to Sicily, young Finance Minister Clyde McCaruana must somehow defend his home country from an incoming wave of inflation, whilst also maintaining (entirely unrealistic) projections of ‘permanent economic growth, at all costs’.

His solution? Easy! We’ll just grow the population, by creating a never-ending stream of jobs, for an equally never-ending stream of economic migrants, from all the over world! (I mean: what on earth could possibly go wrong?)

In true ‘fairy-tale’ fashion, this hare-brained scheme actually works for a while. The economy keeps growing… and growing… and GROWING… until the sudden demand for housing, to accommodate the additional 200,000-or-so people who now live in Malta, has the dual effect of both sky-rocketing the price of property (until no one can actually afford to take out a home-loan anymore); and also, encouraging a mad scramble for development, that wrecks what little actually remains of the country, to begin with.

Ah, but what kind of Christmas Movie would it be, without a happy, morally-appropriate ending? So McCaruana ingeniously sidesteps the problem, by simply showering the population with ‘freebies’: cheques of E100 at election time; subsidised fuel and electricity; free public transport; free wifi; free laptops; free this; free that; free the other…

Until, by the end of the film, people are so very ‘grateful’ for all this generosity, that they somehow fail to even notice that they themselves have been kicked out of their homes, and onto the streets, in the meantime…

[Moral of the story: “It doesn’t matter how bleak the long-term outlook may appear… just like at Christmas, people can always be persuaded that everything is ‘fine and dandy’, by means of a well-timed gift.”]

2) ‘Randolph the Buck-Toothed Pufta (Jaqq!)’

(Also starring ‘Rebecca the Turncoat Whore’, and ‘Cyrus Il-Pufta L-Iehor’)

A firm favourite with younger children, on account of its (often VERY) ‘immature language’, this (often VERY) ‘animated classic’ tells the tale of Randolph De Battista: one of around 40 pack-animals – I mean, ‘Parliamentarians’ – who are entrusted to lead the open sleigh of Government, through the volatile minefield of Maltese politics.

Being one of the younger MPs - and possessed, as he is, of a rather prominent set of pearly-white incisors (sorry, Randolph, but… that part’s true, you know) – our hero was probably used to being bullied from an early age. But not even years of experience could possibly have prepared him for the shock, of receiving an anonymous letter (in Christmas week, too!) describing him as… “a freak of nature”; a “PUFTA! (Jaqq!)”; and “ugly”, too… with “teeth like Bugs Bunny!” (I mean: don’t hold back, or anything…)

… only to end on the ominous note that ‘the wheel turns’; and that Randolph – just like that other ‘pufta’, Cyrus – will one day be ‘called into account!’

Yikes! You can see why kids just love this one already, can’t you? But wait, it gets better. For just like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer overcame all those childish taunts about his ‘facial imperfection’… only to use that same imperfection, to shine everyone’s way through a storm… so too, does Randolph Debattista use those shiny ‘Bugs Bunny’ teeth of his, to flash a sardonic smile back at his detractors.

Neither threats nor intimidation, he said, “will stop me or Cyrus Engerer (and Rebecca Buttigieg, too) from working for what we believe in!”

[Moral of the story: “There are worse things to be, in life, than a ‘pufta with teeth like Bugs Bunny’. You could also be one of those homophobic, misogynistic, demented, and quite possibly homicidal ASSHOLES, who wrote that anonymous letter in the first place…”]

There: you couldn’t possibly ask for a mushier, and more sentimental, ending to a Christmas Movie than THAT… can you now?