The instruction from my editor was terse and to the point. “It’s Christmas!” she hissed through her face mask while holding a pellet gun to my temple and rummaging around with her free hand for pellets. “So for Pete’s sake write something Christmassy! Comprendo?” I nodded, too terrified to ask who Pete was, and leapt out the window before she found a pellet.

Back home, after swilling down a relaxing broccoli and spinach smoothie, I sharpened my pencil and pondered my options. Writing Christmassy articles, whether for Pete or not, is a minefield. You’re bound to offend at least one group of people, whatever you write.

So, despite their bile-inducing tendencies, I can’t mention the slew of “Gee! I love Christmas” movies oozing out of our TVs, nor the disturbing noises they make. It’s a succession of strategically jingled sleigh bells, strung together with saccharin-sweet storylines and bowel-churning ditties sung by dewy-eyed B-grade actors in the snow. And I dare not mention the ostentatious strings of festive lights that don’t help Eskom’s battle against load-shedding one bit – so I won’t.

And I’d definitely be hounded by at least one global organisation who claims it’s all part of a child’s spiritual upbringing. Well, perhaps – but there’s a danger that some kids might happily grow up thinking, correctly, that Christmas is dedicated to only one man – but incorrectly assuming  he’s from the North Pole and wears funny clothes. He does, after all, bring them presents if they’re ‘good’ – whatever that means.

Another topic I dare not mention is the awkward question about the real date of Christmas. Let’s face it, Jesus’ birthday, and the arrival of Santa Claus falling on the same day doesn’t make good marketing sense. One would think that moving Santa to June or July was the obvious solution, but oddly enough the opposite happened.

You see, most mainstream theologians and historians agree that Jesus was born some time between 6 and 4 BCE, and probably in September. From October/November onwards the temperatures in that neck of the woods plummet, and sheep were penned in and sheltered for the winter. No self-respecting dyed-in-the-wool shepherd would be out in December watching his flocks by night, never mind three of them.

In 336 CE, Emperor Constantine, having recently converted to Christianity, substituted the pagan holiday to the Roman god Saturnalia with Jesus’ birthday. December 25 was a festive occasion anyway, and coincided with the winter solstice and the sun’s ‘rebirth’ towards summer.

It was a stroke of genius at the time for the Emperor, because although the original Santa (St Nicholas, born in 280 CE in Turkey) was already gathering a bit of a cult following, it took a few centuries before his popularity almost hijacked Christmas altogether. But the kids don’t need to know all this, so mum’s the word.

And I’d get nasty emails from over-eager Christmas shoppers if I lamented the acres of discarded wrapping paper/plastic and miles of sticky-tape that clog the bins on Boxing Day, and end up in landfills to fester for centuries. So I’ll steer clear of that altogether.

But on the bright side, I’m delighted to announce that Management is flying the entire staff, plus partners, on an all-expenses-paid holiday to the Railway Hostel outside Mynfontein near De Aar. Apparently it’s still the only Covid-free spot on earth, so we won’t have to wear masks or stay 2 metres away from each other’s spouses.

Talking about spouses, spare a thought for America’s First Lady. Her poor hubby has misplaced his crown, and is really grumpy about having to find another job next year – and new digs. If all goes well for some Manhattan attorneys though, he won’t have to. They’re keeping a cell open for him on Alcatraz.

Anyway, I think I managed to avoid any offensive Christmassy stuff, and the plane’s about to leave so until next year, stay sane, safe and selectively secluded.

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