Sunday 18 December 2016

the ghost of christmas pluperfect

Collectors’ Weekly has a nice reflection on the diaphanous and sparkly things that have fuelled how we frame Christmas time, hitting on how strange it is to think that our shared nostalgia—even having lived in Germany for all these years, a place stepped in its own tradition and exporter (in the Victorian Era—and much later, their glassmaking expertise) of many of the standard customs—for the most part don’t reach back to time immemorial but rather to post-war America and Mid-Century Modern style.
Despite all the fossilised lyrics of carols, in fact, almost all that’s not the reserve of the space-race and the burgeoning atomic age seems to be sourced back to the nineteenth century, and with Christmas’ revival (which quickly became something terrible and consumer-oriented), Victorians sought to keep it something pure and authentic—turning away from machines and mass-production and launching the Arts and Crafts movement. The spectre of materialism was always there but was particularly difficult to stave off after the austere years of all manufacturing going to the war effort and then industry finding itself surfeit with raw materials and excess capacity and beat swords into plow-shares—and tinsel and coffee-makers and vacuum-cleaners. Santa Claus was even accredited as an astronaut (and as a cosmonaut) to be tracked by NORAD. Reaching back even further, the holiday, supplanting Saturnalia, has always had its share of ulterior motives and customs that have the most curious and conflated origins but it’s no reason to humbug Christmas—nor to despair over its meaning and its keeping