Finally, December has arrived and the run up to mas can begin in earnest. Obviously the shops have been tempting us with mas goodies for ages, vying for our attention in a competitive mas market. In a flash overnight, the “Seasonal” aisles and displays that were bedecked with the orange and black of Hallowe’en have become all green and red with liberal sprinklings of fake snow; ugly skeletons and witches have given way to jolly old Father mas and his reindeer. There’s no doubt about it; there is a jolliness in the mas season. I used to work with someone who didn’t get particularly excited about it, but I’ve never met a proper Dickensian Scrooge. Somewhere in the mas festivities, there seems to be something that appeals to most tastes.
For the consumers amongst us (from the smallest children who begin to modify their behaviour in anticipation of Father mas’ midnight journey, to the most senior citizen whose collection of mail-order catalogue nick-nacks rivals some small mail-order companies’ stock list!) there are the gifts – mas presents are popular with everyone. Others take the opportunity to be givers rather than receivers; either generously giving mas presents to friends and family or helping with a charity of some sort – perhaps a homeless shelter, or Age-Concern centre, providing a mas meal for elderly neighbours who would otherwise be alone. The traditional mas dinner is something that has wide-ranging appeal; we may not be overly keen on Brussels-sprouts, but there’s usually plenty of other stuff to satisfy our appetites. And don’t we all look forward to mas pudding?
Then, there are the office mas parties which go down a treat with young employees who are happy to indulge themselves on the company’s tab. The radio stations all start to play the familiar mas songs, and there’s the annual competition amongst recording artists to be the mas number one. The postmen and women bring joy to us daily with sacks bulging with mas cards, and we send our own mas greetings to family and friends all over the world. Then there’s the special bumper edition of the Radio Times which contains all the TV and radio listings for the whole mas fortnight – children and parents drawing rings round programmes they want to watch or record; special film premieres for mas Day itself. For the nostalgic who like to remember years gone by, there are plenty of mas carols to sing – and if some community-minded person has organised a proper event out in the cold of a December evening, so much the better. We could even watch it done “properly” from King’s College, Cambridge, or we could pootle down to a local church at some point and reconnect with the well-known story of the little donkey on the dusty road, the starlit stable, the shepherds and the wise men; there’s always something massy going on in the church at this time of year.
All in all, in my experience, mas is popular with pretty much everyone. It’s a great celebration. I confess that I love it myself – for nearly all the reasons above. But I’ve completely left out of my article the main reason for the celebration. How ridiculous is that? Imagine if someone actually did that for real?!