Driven out for Christmas

Peter Jackson
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A friend was supposed to be in Morocco for Christmas.

He didn’t make it, of course. The chaos at weather-beaten airports in Europe foiled his plans.

Nonetheless, I was envious of his plan — envious in an intense way that’s hard to put into words.

It’s not just the exotic location, the lure of a different culture or a milder climate. At any other time of the year, I’d simply be happy for him. I’d feign a little jealousy and then enjoy it vicariously after the fact.

But it’s Christmas. And the prospect of taking off to a land of no Christmas is one of my ultimate fantasies.

Imagine: a world without Christmas.

That’s what inspired my friend. The idea came to him when an acquaintance — clad in a Santa hat — asked him what his favourite Christmas was.

“After thinking for a while, it was clear to me that it was Christmas ’93, in Zanzibar, primarily Muslim, where Christmas is just another day,” he said.

“No whiny children. No fake sincerity. No mass consumption for consumption’s sake. It was wonderful.”

I’ll bet it was. I know it was. It must be a breath of fresh air to spend Christmas in a setting where it’s not shoved down your throat every waking hour — in malls, in offices, on TV, on your clock radio.

For me, it’s the little absences of Christmas in the middle of Christmas that keeps me sane. It’s those little moments when Christmas means nothing.

Walking a snowy street at night. The houses are lit up, but the street is cold and desolate. You could quietly perish in a snowbank and no one would save you. Not even Christmas could save you.

Or the confused look in a dog’s eye as holiday paraphernalia are trotted out. A Christmas bulb or wreath means nothing to a dog. It is a potential toy, that's all. We can dress up pets and personify them ad nauseum, but Christmas is just another day to them — a day with extra food lying around.

It’s increasingly difficult to find these momentary escapes. Mind-numbing music and decorations envelop us everywhere we go. There is no comparative reality. With the barrage of confused sentimentality and little in the way of context, there is no meaning anymore. And there is certainly nothing remotely magical about it.

But it’s Christmas. And the prospect of taking off to a land of no Christmas is one of my ultimate fantasies. Imagine: a world without Christmas.

As a child, like most, I embraced the trappings of Christmas with great fervour. I greatly feared any threat of losing the magic.

That’s why Dr. Seuss’s Grinch was so effective. The nasty creature snatches away every last vestige of the season, but discovers Christmas means much more than gifts and glitter. Perhaps so, but that doesn’t stop His Royal Greenness from returning everything in the end, right down to the last piece of tinsel.

That’s contradictory. These days, I feel those Whos in Whoville should go without for a change.

There is, of course, that other Christmas. The one about the birth of the Saviour. God bless those who follow the church schedule and play down the rest of the clutter. They are increasingly rare.

Instead, Christmas has become its own history. It feeds on itself. People obsess over their own hodgepodge of traditions, victuals and sorely banal melodies. Much of it is adapted from romanticized notions that bear little resemblance to their origins.

I enjoy most of the social aspects of Christmas. But I enjoy them in spite of Christmas, not because of it.

My almost-Morocco-bound friend said the one drawback to the trip would have been that he and his wife weren’t the only westerners escaping the yuletide frenzy. They expected to encounter a good crowd of like-minded tourists.

“So, for the first time ever in our travels, we’ve had to book hotels in advance,” he said. “Otherwise, we’d run the risk of arriving with no rooms left at the inn. …

“But that’s another story.”


Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor.

He can be contacted at his hilltop hideout by emailing

Organizations: His Royal Greenness

Geographic location: Morocco, Europe, Zanzibar Whoville

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Recent comments

  • mom
    December 28, 2010 - 10:07

    I would not want to live in a world with no Christmas. I agree that for many people Christmas has become too much about things. For me, Christmas has always been about family. It is a time when our family all get together whenever possible. It is a time when we share hugs and laughter. Perhaps because we never had much growing up, my brothers and sisters and I have never gotten in to the habit of giving big gifts. Sometimes we will give someone a gift if we see something that reminds us of old memories, something of particular significance. I pity those that feel they have to go out and spend a lot of money for what is essentially a big birthday party for God. It is not what He would have wanted.