What did it happen for you? Did someone tell you? Did you discover it by accident or did you just start to realise and stop believing? For many an older sibling was to blame or friends in the school yard. Whatever the reason there comes a day when belief ends and childhood begins to fade. It seems that only when we ourselves have children that we can reignite the belief that is reflected in our childrens eyes. It is the worst kept secret and yet when we discover it we wish it isn’t true. When did you no longer believe in Father Christmas?
This is neither the place, nor my inclination, to poke holes in the Father Christmas story. Although his origins as well as his original appearance are not well known, we all have the same image in our heads now. A jolly man with a white beard, a sparkle in his eye and a red suit that barely contains that large belly of his. Perhaps a deep booming voice? Perhaps a soft, almost whisper? I must admit that I don’t know when it was that I stopped beliving in the man who rides the sleigh at night. I don’t know when it went from trying to sleep on Christmas Eve so I wouldn’t see Santa to trying to stay awake to see what my parents would put in my stocking at the end of my bed. There was a time when I would nearly trip down the stairs because I was rushing to see what had magically appeared under the tree. There isn’t one moment that sticks out in my childhood memories that signified when I no longer believed and instead found myself digging through objects at the bottom of my parents wardrobes instead looking for anything wrapped in brightly coloured paper.
I miss not having something to believe, it made the season magical in ways that words really cannot do justice. As you get older the magic fades away, sometimes re-appearing for a special Christmas here or there but no longer the magical day that it used to be. The only way I have found to re-exprience something close to the magic, other than having children of my own, is listening to the music that I grew up with. There are countless studies that link music to memories and perhaps this is the reason why certain Christmas songs make me smile or even feel sad. It helps me reconnect with my childhood and the feelings I had so many years ago.
While Paul McCartney‘s Wonderful Christmas Time and Shakin’ Stevens Merry Christmas Everyone are the kind of songs that remind of Christmas parties and silliness, UK, the radio stations played Christmas songs by Gary Glitter, Wizard, John Lennon and even the Wombles (Wombling Merry Christmas is still one of the greatest songs ever). Ever present was Bing Crosby dreaming of a white Christmas and tracks from the Phil Spector Christmas album. No mention of Christmas songs would be complete without Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade, the hit that has as many haters as it has fans.
It is funny to realise, as I just did while writing this, that the Christmas song that hits the nerve each and every time I hear it, no matter what time of year, was released when I was 17, already too old to believe in Father Christmas. The fairytale of New York, sung by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl is as far away from a cheerful seasonal song as can be and yet sums up exactly what Christmas feels like to many. It’s mixture of bitter lyrics combined with the Irish inspired music makes for a whole that is so much more than it’s parts.
There is only one other song that means as much to me as the fairytale of New York, a song that was released when I was only 5, that talks about the moment when belief no longer exists. Greg Lake, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, released I believed in Father Christmas in 1975. While the lyrics are about no longer believing, the song was written about the commercialization of Christmas, something that has only increased in the 26 years since the song was first played on the radio.
I wish I still believed in Father Christmas, life was simpiler back then.