Last Christmas Sarah gave me this diary, which I have religiously not used at all, save a few token appointments made in early January to give the impression that I was grateful for the gesture - and now it is coming close to Christmas again and, despite having less and less time to spare for such things, I somehow find myself sitting at my desk, pen in hand, at last using it for its intended purpose.
Why, I ask myself - but the answer, when I think further, is quite plain. It is that I wish to make one simple declaration:
I hate Christmas.
There. I have written it - it is final. I loathe and abominate Christmas. I hope sincerely that no-one has observed this fact, for I would hate to cast a shadow over the play and disappoint the little maids. But the mere word makes me cringe and yearn to seek a safe place in which to hide until this unbearable season is over.
Sometimes I think it is the singing that I hate the most, a fact which may surprise some of my acquaintance. But I find that music takes on the emotions of the time when it was first heard, and Christmas is not a happy time, not for me. It has altogether too many memories, and in those memories is entangled all the music of my years, from my first carol service as a boy of seven, through the solemn festivities we conducted on the Western Front, to my current meagre efforts for the young ladies at the school.
Christmas. What a time it is! Everything begins with Advent, which descends in a rush every year and takes even the most earnest choir by surprise. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, but not so quickly that we have not managed to prepare the music in time. The hymns are full of promise for the glory to come - our Saviour descending to earth to save us from sin! - and yet my heart fails to spark with gladness, for I feel salvation to be a more complicated concept than the church would have me believe. Advent carols tend to be more sober and reflective; I find myself in sympathy with their minor keys and melancholy phrasing.
Advent races by, every year - there is always much to do. When I was a chorister in, dare I say it, one of our more prestigious cathedrals, I was busy learning the repertoire for the Advent carol service, the Christmas concerts, Nine Lessons And Carols, the midnight service on Christmas Eve…these days it is the Christmas play that occupies my time, coaching my choir in the ensemble music, my soloists in their individual pieces. But it is always the same - a week, two weeks, and then suddenly Christmas Eve is upon me and it is a case of Oh Come, All Ye Faithful, step out into this Holy Night, Hearken to the Herald Angels, and Rejoice, Good Christian Men, before returning home to…
Perhaps it is that part that I hate so much. The music is painful, but perhaps not as painful as that moment when the music stops.
I suspect my dear Sarah of sharing my sentiments, though she has never voiced them, or at least never to me. But there is a busyness about her in the week preceding, a jollity on the day itself, that is so patently forced that I am convinced she, too, is trying her hardest to forget. She does not think me perceptive, but I have known her all my life and whatever she may think of me, I am no fool. And yet I, too, adopt the same heartiness of manner. Sometimes I even trick myself into believing it, at least for Christmas Day; I have even been known honestly to enjoy it, once or twice. But Christmas must be endured until Epiphany, with nothing to do but sit, and eat, and remember.
Oh, damn it all to hell. I hate Christmas!