It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the media world, when journalists can disappear down the boozer for days on end, occasionally phoning in the same stocking-fillers they’ve been recycling for the last 20 years. They usually go something like this:
#1 – Christmas Dinner is under threat
An unforeseen global catastrophe is imperilling your Xmas Day blow-out. Turkey and sprouts usually take it in turns to lead the pack, and sometimes there’s a rank outsider such as CO2 shortages, but this year Sky News have sprung for the unusual triumvirate of potatoes, sprouts and parsnips. Fortunately, the fallout from this year’s Great Turkey Disaster has been limited to Dorset.
The Christmas Dinner Threat is a seasonal variation on the perennial peril being posed to the sacred ritual British Friday feast of fish and chips, under fire from Brexit/potato crop failure/Ukraine war/pea inflation tec etc.
#2 – Christmas has been cancelled by the Wokerati
Also known as the “War on Christmas”, this is usually the speciality of failed insurrectionist Donald Trump. Trump allegedly won the war in 2015, but now it’s being lost again, and UK right-wing rabble-rousers have been increasingly jumping on the bandwagon. Here’s Elizabeth Haigh of the Mail Online frothing at the mouth about imaginary festive grievances. But when the Bowes Museum renamed its Christmas festivities “Winter Market” in order to widen the appeal, the culture-warriors went ballistic. Step forward the UK’s leading theologian (checks notes) BBC Antiques Road Trip presenter David Harper to demand that the Museum reversed its assault on 2,000 years of Christianity.
#3 – Christmas gets earlier every year
The selection boxes have been in the shops since Easter, but this isn’t the worst of it. “Starting Christmas early is a sign of national moral decline.” Not my words, but those of someone who seems to know their onions, the nation’s foremost sage, Allison Pearson of the Daily Telegraph. On the other hand, Allison’s Twitter/X posts are stuffed with blatant Covid disinformation, including this turkey from almost four years ago.
#4 – Christmas lovers slam local council for *Insert Reason Here*
#5 – Snogging under the mistletoe is good/bad for your health*
*Delete as appropriate
On the other hand, snogging under the mistletoe is bad. It could give you the flu, mono (whatever that is) or even meningitis. More dangerously, it could be a gateway to sexual abuse, although HuffPost may have been overthinking it here. The mistletoe/snog trope is a really handy filler, because if you deploy it early enough in December, you can shoehorn it again on New Year’s Eve with hardly anyone noticing.
#6 – Winter Wonderland was a big let down
Where do we start? Rip-off prices (obvs), elves kept taking breaks, mardy-looking penguin, First World War battlefield, creepy Santa. It’s easy to find material for these stories, because they account for about 50% of all Facebook posts during December.
#7 – Heartless thieves
For 11 months of the year, the people who burgle your home are thoughtful, sensitive souls, but at Christmas they are heartless thieves who will pinch anything that isn’t nailed down – knitted sheep, toy cars, decorations, to name but a few, but their number one choice is always the presents underneath your Christmas tree. A new low was reached when burglars made off with the kids’ prezzies from Great Ormond Street Hospital. Kind-hearted locals, including businessman Lord Sugar, made good the losses, and his warm glow lasted right up until he was busted for trying to swindle £186m in a tax dodge.
#8 – The dangers of Christmas
If you worry that Christmas may be an accident-prone horror show, journalists desperate for copy have got your back. Make preparations to avoid the 12 health risks of Christmas, the 12 hazards of Christmas and, more specifically, the 12 electrical dangers of Christmas. Your kids aren’t safe either, and the Sun is helping out with 12 choking hazards of Christmas. If you’re not chewing your nails yet, Fido is under threat too. You guessed it, 12 Christmas dangers that could put your pet at risk. There’s a also a danger to your wallet, because a Christmas present mistake could cost you £2,500.
#9 – Have a Merry Green Christmas
Can an orgy of conspicuous consumption ever be considered “green”? No, of course not, but the COP28 shenanigans have proved that, if the corporate media can successfully green-wash the abandonment of any serious attempts to tackle climate change, pretending that Christmas is eco-friendly is a walk in the park. You can kid yourself that you can offset your Christmas if you follow, yep, the 12 Carbons of Christmas on http://carbonfootprint.com/, courtesy of the BP plc Publicity Department. If you want to start smaller, the Guardian suggests replacing cling film with reusable beeswax-covered cotton cloths, available from Waitrose (where else?).
#10 – Christmas is getting too commercialized
People have been saying this since early Christians hijacked the Roman feast of Saturnalia, a tremendous week-long binge of eating, drinking, gambling and general excess, in the 4th Century. Over-commercialization of Christmas is a frequent complaint of those brought up in the austerity of 1950s Britain, for whom Christmas meant a visit to Church, and a small orange in the stocking, although I’ve often wondered whether this rose-tinted nostalgia is a bit of an exaggeration. For those who still labour over the misapprehension that Christmas is something to do with religion, over-commercialization can be avoided by inviting Jesus to the party, a guaranteed buzzkill.
#11 – Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
The Christmas cliché industry is eternally grateful to Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots, who came up with this gem in 1934. You better watch out for how many times the lyrics of this song have generated filler articles and corny sales pitches since then, whether someone is making a list and checkin’ it twice, or just trying to find out who’s naughty or nice. You better not pout when you hand over the royalty cheque.
#12 – ‘Tis the Season to make Yule/you’ll puns
You can tell that the bottom of the barrel has been reached when the scribblers reach for their two ultimate standbys. ‘Tis the Season to write a puff-piece for a German supermarket. ‘Tis the Season to consult an employment lawyer. ‘Tis the Season to buy Southampton FC merch. Yule be surprised by the inane Royal Family grovelling in the Sun. Yule be surprised by a visit to a whisky distillery. Yule be surprised by the festive world of apprenticeships.