Praying for a Silent Night: Rage against the Christmas Music Machine

This article (or something resembling it – could not resist the urge to tweak) first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday 20 December 2011 under the heading “Praying for a real silent night this Christmas“, and later here under “Raging Against the Christmas Music Machine“.

I was reminded of it by the news, on Twitter, yesterday that R. Kelly has signalled his intention to make an album of “Love-Making” Holiday Music for the 2014 Festive Season. Working title: “12 Nights of Christmas”, of course. I cannot imagine the toe-curling horror of this project, particularly when ’12 Nights’ falls into the hands of misanthropic retail managers. Apparently R says “But I don’t believe in just putting out a Christmas album just to sell records”. Now, I would have thought that was the only possible reason.

I’m heading overseas with the family to escape the usual Christmas horror this year. But I today I noticed many hypertensive drivers queueing in 34 degree heat to get into shopping centres where they can listen to Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra sing about snow, and reindeer and other shit that doesn’t really work here in the Southern Hemisphere. I thought it time┬áto republish my fulmination against Christmas Music. If it reaches one receptive soul, I’ll consider my work done. You can thank me later.

Boney M. Who grew very wealthy from inflicting serious shopping-mall related damage.

Thanks to the sentimental Charles Dickens and the fabulous Dr Seuss, we have words in English for those who dare to question any facet of the Christmas spirit: Scrooges and Grinches. Childish name-calling seems the only defence against those of us who dodge hall-decking and dissent from artificial Yuletide cheer.

Well, this year I’m reclaiming those rights. Consider me Professor Scrooge McGrinch.

There is plenty to loathe about Christmas; from the tedious rounds of workplace parties, to the obscene garbage we buy as gifts, to the cynical attempts by Christians to hijack the whole fiesta for their own religious ends. (And I’m not just talking about Sarah Palin’s imaginary ‘War on Christmas’).

I love Christmas lights, and my house has been seen from the International Space Station. I’m happy to put up with greedy, materialistic kids, and with months of family intrigue over whether we are going full-turkey or cold-seafood this year (inevitably, despite the near paralysing suspense, it always ends up being a bit of both). I even laugh when discount warehouse staff intrude into traffic, like Johannesburg hijackers, offering a seven-metre inflatable Santa for $29.95. But one feature of Christmas automatically induces a month-long migraine: the music.

Once, when I was 18, I took a trip on Vancouver’s ”Carols Boat”, a two-hour-long harbour trip that cemented two rules by which I have since lived: never attend a social occasion on a boat (you can’t get off), and never go carolling. I survived because the wintry beauty of Vancouver’s light-bedecked mansions more than compensated for the carols rasping through the boat’s speakers. The carolers on my boat lost conviction after about 15 minutes.

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