By Yuri Prasad
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2784

Why the right like Christmas

The ghost of Christmas future is worrying the Tories and the bosses
Issue 2784
Armchairs, open fire and Christmas decorations

The idealised version of Christmas is a long way from reality for many people (Pic: Issa GM/Wikipedia)

A bit like the “War on Terror” and the “War on Drugs”, the “Fight to Save Christmas” is unending and bends constantly to encompass new dangers.

It wasn’t long ago that the main threat to this year’s seasonal festivities was a crisis in the toy supply chain and a possible shortage of turkeys.

That all feels like a long time ago. Now, the Sun newspaper warns us that the potentially more dangerous Omicron virus variant could wreck the holiday period.

“Three weeks to save Christmas,” it screamed last week as it told readers of the government’s limited Covid protection measures.

Of course, Covid is a serious business but in the minds of the right there are even greater threats to the most joyous time of year. “Now the woke ‘blob’ tries to ban Christmas,” proclaimed the Daily Mail.

This came after somebody in the Cabinet Office thought that as a significant proportion of Britain aren’t Christian, its advertising ought to reflect that.

Why do the Tories and their acolytes get so worked up about Winterval?

Part of the reason is surely cold, hard cash. There is no finer sound in the Tory ear than a thousand cash registers singing in unison.

With an economy that has long been centred on the service sector, rather than manufacturing, the festive period spending spree keeps the wheels of commerce turning.

Many restaurants report that without Christmas they would be bust.

And the whole hospitality industry is crying that the new variant is going to lay waste to their office party and family bookings. But there is more to it than that.

The right loves Christmas because it embodies the idea of nuclear family, looking after your own—and forgetting about the rest of the world.

For one day at least, the responsibility to partake in British life is entirely on your own family’s shoulders and can’t be palmed off on the state.

Now, that might sound a bit “un-Christian”, but for the right Christianity is at the very centre of things.

Guarding the message of “Happy Christmas” from the threat of other greetings, such as “Happy holidays” for example, is part of asserting that Britain is a Christian country, not a multicultural free for all, they say.

And for the right, the period asserts the natural order of things.

That women have to carry most of the festival’s burdens alone reflects their “caring nature”, say the Tories.

From the planning of three days of food gorges, to the buying and wrapping of presents, the jobs naturally suit the more “family orientated” gender, they insist.

And, when it comes to the big day itself, of course it’s mainly women that get up early to make a start on that all important dinner.

That the right see threats to their most precious of times coming from every direction is symptomatic of the age of “culture wars”.

But for millions of people the understanding of Christmas may be simpler but is no less ideological.

In the era of neoliberalism the patterns of our working lives have been increasingly torn up.

Weekend working, including on Sunday, is now commonplace.

The TUC union federation estimates that workers in Britain clocked up £24 billion worth of unpaid overtime last year.

The need to respond immediately to work emails long into the night blights the rest and sleep of thousands of people.

The feeling that the demands of work force us to neglect our partners, families and friends hangs over us.

That there is this time, Christmas, during which everything seems to stop, if only for a few days, comes as a moment of light relief to cherish.

That’s the bit about Christmas that the right don’t like.

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