A Christmas Story  

... as told to me by my close friend and fellow filosofer, Mr Thomas Jeffries:

It had been a restless night, but suddenly I awoke with a feeling of premonition.  At that moment, the radio came on and the sonorous chimes of Big Ben could be heard, as if portending something of great moment.  As they stopped, the Radio 4 newsreader began the midnight news-bulletin with words which shook me to the core.  She said “the Government has decided that Mr Thomas Jeffries, the well-known philosopher and a leading citizen of Coleshill, someone generally accepted to be a person of great wisdom, has been given the responsibility of deciding whether or not the concept of Father Christmas should be abolished.  He will announce his decision in 24 hours time.”. 

I was at first utterly at a loss to know what to do, but then, having decided that I should accept the challenge in the national interest, I started to think over the questions which it raised. 

There is first of all the patriarchal aspect to all of this.  The hero of Christmas is a man. Mother Christmas does appear in some versions of the tale, but only as a helper and with nothing like the same status as Father Christmas himself.  It has been reported in the Times that Egloshayle Parish Council in Cornwall has attempted to overcome this by advertising the post of Father Christmas on a non-gender specific basis. They have not though stated whether the successful candidate will be called ‘Father’ Christmas or ‘Mother’ Christmas.

Obviously a bearded man self-identifying as a woman would be an ideal candidate, but this to me seems unduly restrictive.  And then, bearing in mind that the entire title, whether Father or Mother Christmas could be seen as an implicit criticism of anyone who is not a parent, whether because too young or because they had no wish to be a parent, it would seem that a less judgemental title would be appropriate in any event. Perhaps ‘Non-binary Christmas’? This would deal both with the difficulty of gender specificity and also that of implicit criticism of those who have not had children. 

Clearly though, I mused, the abolition of the concept in its entirety would deal with all of this confusion at a stroke.

Then there is the difficulty in any multi-faith (and no faith) society that the word ‘Christmas’ implies a relationship to the Christian faith.  This could be dealt with by the use of a different word, perhaps ‘Present-giver’?  It would sum up the nature of the role whilst not implying any connection with a particular faith (or no faith). 

So then, if we decided to continue with the concept of someone distributing gifts on 24th/25th December, we would have a possible alternative name for Father Christmas - “Non-binary Present-giver”.  I think that rolls off the tongue nicely.

But what about the concept of giving gifts at Christmas, or perhaps we should say, ‘Present Giving Day’?  Is it something we in fact wish to see continue?  After all, it is only of benefit for good boys and girls (and others who are not defined by such binary descriptions). We know that those who have been naughty, of whatever gender (or none), are not entitled to receive any presents from Non-binary Present Giver on Present Giving Day. But who is to judge the degree of naughtiness which would entail such non-entitlement?  After all, every child is to some extent naughty and to some extent nice. 

Is it reasonable to give one person, the Non-binary Present-giver, such judgemental responsibility?
And it is surely obvious that judgements affecting British children by one person, especially a citizen of a foreign land, should no longer be tolerated. Should there not be instead a committee of all ethnicities and faiths (and none), with a non-ageist profile, drawn from British society and charged with responsibility for determining the relative nice/naughty quotient of each child? 

And, as a matter of natural justice, surely the criteria for such a judgement should be set out in advance of the relevant year, so that children could know against what standard they would be judged.

Then there is the question of the effect on trade of the import, without customs control, of presents.  These will all apparently have been made by foreigners, people of diminutive stature, the payment rate for whom is shrouded in mystery. The International Labour Organisation is yet to comment on this, but there is no record of payment ever having being made for their labours and so it may well be an example of modern slavery. Obviously this would be fine post-Brexit, when we would no longer be bound by EU minimum wage regulations but, until then, it must be regarded as an anti-competitive practice.

We also need to address the question of whether we have negotiated a post-Brexit free-trade agreement with Santa Land. Certainly, until we do, flying presents in over the chimney tops, but under the radar is not something of which we can approve. 

Indeed, the concept of requiring chimneys for the delivery of gifts in this period of accelerating global warming is hardly in keeping with the government’s carbon reduction strategy.

Of course, these days, children (and adults) are apparently looking less to receive gift items in the physical sense and instead are wanting experiences which they can enjoy after Present Giving Day.  This is no doubt something to be encouraged in so far as the activity does not in itself entail a significant carbon footprint.  But by the same token the very idea of giving the man, woman or non-binary other of the family a day at a motor-racing track pretending to be an F1 driver must be frowned upon, as should days of pampering at a spa where temperatures are held at artificially high levels in order, apparently, to allow participants to sweat out their very many impurities.

Time was moving on but, after much agonising, I had just made my decision on this vexed subject, when to my surprise I received a telephone call from the Prime Minister to see what conclusion I had come to. I am a person endowed with wisdom and knowledge such as others do not possess, and so I told him: “No chance Boris, I don’t want to be lynched the next time I set foot outside the house. As far as I’m concerned you can hold a referendum. The people can decide and then live with the consequences.”

That should work.

What a nightmare!

Thomas Jeffries

Present Giving Day, 2018

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