The perils of Father Christmas on the radio

by John Darvall

It’s almost here or it is as simple as there are just three more sleeps. Noddy Holder has made his pension shouting about it. Will your Christmas be like it is on the telly? Chances are you don’t even have an open fireplace in your living room. It’s a difficult time of year to be a journalist when the world is point east, toward a bright star or Cribbs Causeway as its better known while you are pointing west, toward a news story.

It is even harder if you do a daily topical phone in on the radio. Getting a listener to talk about something other than Christmas, even if they don’t actually give a monkeys about it, is quite difficult. One could start to discuss the truth and realities of Christmas but this is VERY dangerous ground.

On BBC Radio Bristol this week I ran a series looking at how other faiths and religions mark, celebrate or avoid this time of year. Very illuminating it was too. We had a lot of praise from listeners and some critique too, which I always welcome. As ever in these matters, if your faith does not chime with another there is a conflict of the heart, soul or body. ‘Twas ever thus.

One thing you can never EVER discuss is that Santa Claus or Father Christmas does or does not exist. You can’t even challenge the notion of his existence, his origins or meaning. It’s the law. Whether he is or was a saint, a sinner, German, a construct of the coca cola company or just a retail catalyst to get you shopping for one day of consumer excess I will let you decide.

Here are a few thoughts on this. Parents must maintain the magic of Father Christmas for as long as possible so children believe in him, but at who’s cost? The parents, maybe. As soon as the Santa secret is out, the Christmas stocking stops and the christmas spend decreases significantly. You might say that this is a retail conspiracy. You might very well think that, I couldn’t possible comment, to quote a former fictional Conservative Chief Whip and PM.

Here is another thought. This time of year and the use of Father Christmas is a useful juvenile binary judicial system. Any potential crime or disciplinary infraction committed from early October means you are either ‘naughty or nice’, you are listed accordingly and duly punished on the big day. You can even commute your crime and get a lighter sanction for good behaviour.

One last thought on Father Christmas. He is the ONLY exception to the rule of ‘don’t talk to strangers, don’t engage with them’. Indeed it’s okay for Santa thought to break into your home, steal food, creep up to your child’s bedroom and leave toys.

In short if you even dare to say you don’t believe in Father Christmas it is career suicide and likely to get the local paper on your back with a campaign to have you taken off the air, taken to the local park and force-fed carrots while listening to Shakin’ Stevens Merry Christmas Everyone over and over and over again.

So without actual commitment on Father Christmas/Santa/Ole Nick’s existence I leave you with this final festive thought. The are four stages of Santa. You believe in Father Christmas, then you don’t, then you become Father Christmas then you look like him.

Merry Christmas and a safe 2014.

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