The Magic of Christmas

Columnist Hugh Bassett discusses the magic of Christmas.

Let’s face it: we all want to experience magic. That’s why JK Rowling is currently grimacing on top of an obscenely large pile of real-life galleons, sickles and knuts, or why we fork out twelve quid to watch Martin Freeman play a 3D version of Martin Freeman for three and a bit hours in the vain hope that we’ll walk out of the cinema off our tits on fantasy, shooting imaginary ‘Gandalf beams’ at that couple in front of you who decided they needed to tell each other exactly what was going on during the film that they WERE BOTH WATCHING AT THE SAME TIME ANYWAY.

I nearly missed them saying something cute about how much Hobbits eat!

We crave magic. Our imaginations, our need for escapism or novelty demand that there must be something more, something unseen that perhaps not everyone is able to experience.  It’s a desire that seems innate.

We try to imbue situations with it.  There’s the ‘magic of birthdays’ (because your friends making you down a pint of half-vomit half-dettol is exactly like Maggie Smith bringing a bunch of statues to life) or ‘the magic of Disneyland’ (because a giant plastic castle smelling of half-vomit half-dettol is….you get it). But nothing supposedly compares to ‘the magic of Christmas’.

Little can compare to that feeling of pure excitement that children feel, setting aside an entire month of their lives in manic anticipation of a glucose-fuelled fiesta of coloured paper and vacuum-packed toys that their parents open with a pair of scissors having tried to use their teeth, cut themselves and kicked the cat in frustration.

Where’s Tibbles?

It’s something we appear to lose as we get older, with people morosely stating, usually towards the end of November, that they’ve ‘lost the magic’ in a tone usually reserved for sentences like ‘I’ve lost the baby’ or ‘I’ve lost the remote and that new David Attenborough is on in like three minutes’. The loss of ‘Christmas magic’ is synonymous with the loss of childhood innocence, simplicity and joy. We mourn the days when happiness was a couple of Quality Streets and a Pokémon sticker book.

And so we blame. We say it’s commercialization  It’s the way we’re programmed into buying mounds of superfluous items we’ll never use again. It’s how the ‘true meaning’ is obscured by celebrity cookbooks and 15-packs of sage and onion stuffing balls for a pound from Iceland.

Jesus is probably behind it somewhere.

So we try and find the true meaning, we strip it back and talk about the greatest story ever told, and we say we’re bored. We don’t believe it anymore. It’s not relevant to our lives. We look at the men in their robes by the altar and cry ‘That’s not magic! You can’t see it. There’s no special effects. How does following ancient scripture make us feel good inside?’

Yet perhaps ‘the magic’ is visible, just not in the way we think. There’s no spells, no Gandalf, no-one being born for us, but simply a time of the year when you get together with the people you love, even if you do end up screaming ‘NO! We are going to try and play Monopoly despite the fact that the only ones of us who aren’t already crying are so pissed they’re wearing their shoes on their hands and pretending to be ‘upside down people’’.  We do it every year, knowing full well that the same thing is probably going to happen over and over again, and we do it out of love. We don’t need magic; something not-from-this-world. We’ve got it right here already.