Notebook

Whatever happened to real Christmases?

Joan Collins's notebook: 'Happy holidays' in Birmingham and Hollywood; and a word on Donald Trump

12 December 2015

9:00 AM

12 December 2015

9:00 AM

As I strolled through the aisles in a large department store, I almost choked when I read a large display that blared: ‘Don’t forget to treat your pussy at Christmas…’ with relief I read the rest of the ad: ‘…and your bow-wow too!’ Beneath the dubious banner lay a massive display of beautifully wrapped chew toys, scratching posts and all manner of treats and playthings. That’s when I realised this entire Christmas practice has gone truly bonkers.

Every 6 January I breathe a sigh of relief as I take down and store the enormous number of Christmas decorations with which I festoon my house. ‘Never again!’ I say to Percy, ‘Let’s go away next Christmas.’ But when the following November rolls around, all is forgotten and the boxes of goodies are brought out with much excitement and anticipation and I start to deck the halls all over again. Christmas is a joyous time in our house and I never fail to revel in it. I’m not a religious person, nor am I an atheist. I’m more of an agnostic, really. But I was raised with Christian values by a Church of England mother to the amusement of my Jewish father and my ‘hovering Buddhist’ uncle George, who’d been in a Japanese concentration camp. I was told that I could choose my own religious beliefs ‘when I grew up’.

Multicultural as we were, Christmas was joyously celebrated each year, even during the declining days of the second world war. There was no ‘bah-humbug’ in our house. We had a small tree, simple decorations, one gift each and a stocking for Jackie, my cousins and me. This would contain a small puzzle, a tiny book or comic strip and a few sweets or an orange. How things have changed! I love Christmas and I wish it could go back to the simplicity that defined it for me as a child. There was a magical aura that we seem to have lost.


When I appeared in a Christmas pantomime in Birmingham a few years ago there were no jolly Christmas lights or Santas in the street and hardly any nativity scenes or traditional decorations in the shops. When I asked a cab driver the reason, he shrugged and told me: ‘We can’t even call it Christmas — it’s Winterfest here — otherwise it offends them.’ That didn’t stop the council from endorsing the biggest of Christmas (sorry, Winterfest) villages in the style of a Bavarian town, selling novelties, drink and food, the large proportion of the latter being beer, pretzels and smoked sausages tended by servers in lederhosen. I felt I was in the middle of a Mel Brooks musical.

People rarely say ‘Merry Christmas’ on their cards any more, opting rather for the blander ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Peace on Earth’. Some districts even ban religious displays in public spaces and insist on generic decorations. So the religious significance of Christmas is downplayed and the consumer side is emphasised — as if we’ve decided Christmas is first and foremost a valuable economic commodity, and who cares why we celebrate it? On Rodeo Drive, the prosperous shopping street in Beverly Hills, the decorations consist of five or six massive boxes piled on top of each other and wrapped with red and green ribbon, block after block in the central section of the avenue.

In early December I visited restaurants and clubs in Hollywood where practically everyone was sloppily dressed. This appears to be the norm now. People going out in the evening wearing baggy cargo shorts, or jeans with so many holes and rips in them that they look as if they’ve just been pulled out of a bin. These so-called ‘designer’ jeans are sold for large sums in the trendy boutiques and stores. The shabby-T-shirt-brigade look at you scornfully, as if you’d come from another century, which of course we have. But just after Thanksgiving, at the end of November, these trendsetters top off their unstylish garb with ludicrous Santa Claus hats worn without aplomb. It’s an offence not just against religious sensibilities, but against fashion.

Donald Trump, the Republican presidential aspirant and front-runner (yes, he is!) has been vociferous in his disdain for the new secular joylessness of Christmas. He scorned Starbucks for having the nerve to introduce as this year’s ‘Christmas cup’ a plain red design devoid of any of the reindeers, snowflakes or holly boughs of yesteryear. Mr Trump announced bravely that once he becomes President ‘We’re all going to be saying, “Merry Christmas” again.’ Well, bully for you, Mr T. You are vocalising what millions of people want and believe, and I bet you know how to treat your pussy (or doggie) at Christmas, too!

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Show comments
  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “And may all your Christmases be white”
    Dream on, Britisher pals.

    • King Kibbutz

      Was there a point to that Jack?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        White Christmas, a distant memory in multicultural UK.
        Game Over, Britisher pals.
        But hey, thanks for that second bite of the cherry opportunity.

        • King Kibbutz

          You are most welcome and I hope you feel better soon.

        • Cyril Sneer

          Is that supposed to be some sort of joke? I guess the cotton fields are still burned into your conciousness…

    • vieuxceps2

      Last warning,jack. You call me Britisher pal once more and I shall come and piddle on your Christmas pudding. Not “Britisher”, not your pal.In fact there are NO Britishers.

  • King Kibbutz

    Have a Merry Christmas Joan.

  • Sanctimony

    Joan Collins is a breath of fresh … Says it like it is without giving any offence or any garish self-publicity…

    In contrast, we are plagued day in and day out with endless exposure of the ghastly Helen Mirren… cavorting about with her sagging boobs and flapping bingo wings and coming out with obscenities or making lewd gestures at the cameras to which she appears umbilically attached … she wasn’t even a looker in her younger days and is now intent on relentlessly thrusting her senile decay upon us all…

    There are other pretentious luvvies intent upon thrusting their presence upon us: Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslett being but a couple of examples…. but at least they don’t thrust their sagging appendages and withered limbs at us, night and day…

    • Woman In White

      What a lovely example of unmitigated ghastliness

      • Sanctimony

        Stop following me around, you ghastly old windbag !

  • Bonkim

    Life has become too complicated now and the old idealism and values have gone replaced by commercialism.

  • freddiethegreat

    There’s nothing a good agnostic can’t do if she doesn’t know if she believes in anything or not!

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “I’m an Atheist and my wife’s an agnostic. We can’t decide which religion not to bring the children up in.”
    Remember that Woody Allen gag?

    • Sanctimony

      Reminds me of ‘Golden Balls’ Beckham…. “We def’nitly gonna ‘ave ‘im Chrissen’d… just ‘aven’t chosen which relijun yet….. ‘

  • MadameDellaporte

    All people are religious. Humans are religious beings and we e all believe in something. This can manifest in belief in any of the following:human rights, fairies, Reason, God, Gods, Godesses, Mother Nature etc.

  • Woman In White


    Whatever happened to real Christmases?

    They vanished when you abandoned Christianity.

    • Jethro Asquith

      But that is not true is it? Atheists, Agnostics and just about everyone also enjoy ‘real Christmases’. The fact is, when the Moslems arrived by the boatload and began to become a significant proportion of the country that some people (who were not actually Moslem’s themselves) decided that Christmas was offence to such people. Bizarre really, as the Bangladeshi Moslems who run my local ‘Indian’ love Christmas as much as anyone else.

      As for the commercialisation – that has been happening for years. Christian’s are as much to blame as anyone else.

      • pobjoy

        Atheists, Agnostics and just about everyone also enjoy ‘real Christmases’.

        Would it give the same enjoyment if it was called something else?

    • Sue Smith

      Come on now, don’t be hypocritical enough to take advantage of the public holidays celebrating the birth of Christ. If you feel this way return to work and put your money where your mouth is.

  • William Matthews

    I don’t know if Joan Collins will ever read this, but Merry Christmas, Joan! I agree with you on this.

    • Sue Smith

      Me too!!! (And I’ll bet she reads the comments!)

  • ohforheavensake

    War Against Christmas Klaxon!!!!!

    Well, Joan: I’m an atheist, & most of our mates aren’t Christians: but looking at the cards we’ve been sent, the overwhelming majority say “Merry Christmas”- that’s if they’re not saying “Happy Christmas’ or “Have a Wonderful Christmas”.

    The Winterfest story is very old, and it’s also complete nonsense-

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/nov/08/winterval-modern-myth-christmas

    Oh, and here are some shots of the Christmas decorations in Birmingham this year-

    http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/birmingham-christmas-lights-switched-german-10440227

    And they all look pretty spectacular to me.

    Now, I don’t want to suggest that such an esteemed actress as your good self is talking rubbish: but, I’m afraid, in this case, you’re talking rubbish.

  • Hear, Hear.

    My religion? Aesthetics. My grandmother always used to tell me that it was a sign of impoliteness to not make an effort when in the company of others. But it is an idea apparently consigned to the last century, like Capote’s masked ball and gentlemen in velvet jackets.

    Even Carolina Herrera said most young women now view elegance as rather “old fashioned”. Aspiration has apparently resulted in people paying more for mass produced nylon football kits than hand made clothes. To dress well is apparently elitism when in fact the truth is the opposite. The world has truly gone mad.

    Valentino (who shares your view), Herrera, yourself and a few others are the last remaining vestiges of a civilised world. Because when dressing becomes sloppy, much else follows.

  • Toy Pupanbai

    I really must check up on bow tie etiquette!
    It’s been so long since we stopped dressing for dinner
    About the same time we could no longer afford dinner..

    • Sue Smith

      Moral relativism, on steroids. Sadly you’ve completely missed the point.

  • Precambrian

    Few things are more nauseating than when the non-poor pretend that they are poor (either in dressing like a tramp or claiming poverty when they are in no such thing).

    But we are not allowed to dress up as it might make the poor feel inadequate. Just as we r 2 spk wiv no gramma, cos that iz wot da unejugated does innit, n we cnot mek em feel bad.

  • Teacher

    When I was teaching at secondary level in a London borough the Muslim girls loved Christmas. They all bought each other presents and wore Christmas themed decorations. The children had no problem celebrating each other’s festivals. The more the merrier, it seemed. I don’t know what it would be like now. I imagine the management will have banned Christmas in case it offended the very girls who loved it.

    • Sue Smith

      What a pity “the management” didn’t also banish genital mutilation and other medieval and barbaric practices which muslim girls can ‘look forward’ to!! That and arranged marriages with their cousins.

      And WE must beat our breasts for ‘offending’ them???

      • Teacher

        I absolutely agree. Given that state education is riven with socialism from top to bottom it infuriated me that the rights of women and girls were so easily dismissed as those of poor Muslim girls betrayed by the left. The religion seems to me inherently based on an inequality of the sexes. When you look at what ISIS is up to it actually seems to be the purpose of it all. As for Rotherham and Rochdale etc. …

        • Sue Smith

          The crazy nut-jobs of ISIS are not one and the same as your muslim neighbours. However, as I mentioned earlier, they don’t need to be – there is enough medievalism in Islam to more than ‘compensate’ for any attempts at liberalism and a modern world for its adherents.

          There would be many well-educated and informed muslims who select bits from the Koran to suit their daily lives, just as Catholics cherry-pick aspects of their faith to suit their needs – ignoring other tendentious aspects of the bible. For example, if we all went around turning the other cheek we would be ruled by thugs and perpetually oppressed. Unless that is what we are meant to be!! How else can we explain “the meek shall inherit the earth”?

          My concern is the many millions of uneducated and unskilled muslims who have grievances, are damaged by conflict and who’ve been told by the regressive Left that they have “rights”. In these circumstances I fear the Koran will direct them into an ‘appropriate’ response. That and their failure to get with the culture of the new country.

          There’s enough there to worry about! For now I’m going to enjoy Christmas.

  • rodger the dodger

    My mother got an orange for Christmas one year in the late 30s, i think. Another time, she received a Gollywog made by my aunt. GET IN, MUM!

  • marvin

    By the time Christmas comes around, everyone is fed up with it! The advertising begins in July with sales people presenting items that can be purchased for Christmas presents etc., The same for Easter – where Easter Eggs are on display in January!

    Supermarkets are to blame for staff losing their Christmas Holidays – ordering staff ‘no-one can take time off around Christmas and New Year’ – desperately worried that they may lose a few quid in sales. Whereas, if they cared to think about it – they are shooting themselves in the foot! Customers are more likely to OVERSTOCK if they think the shops are not going to be open for a week, instead people do not bother to do to much shopping since it can be bought any time, even on Christmas Day. There are thousands of service staff, having to work early mornings and late nights – imagine if these people reverted back to a Christmas Week off – they would purchase more alcohol and snacks and enjoy going out to parties! So much for American Commercialism – short sighted to say the least!

    Many schools have dropped the Nativity Scene and the Christmas plays – fearful of upsetting the political correctness of the situation! This is the UK, this is a Christian country! Even if not Christian – then a country where people enjoy alcohol and celebrations!

    Back to Christmas Holidays, when people rushed around excitedly purchasing presents and food stuffs – just in December. There was an atmosphere of anticipation, the children became excited with the promise of mysterious gifts, families got together and neighbours called round for a Christmas tipple!

    Not now – half the family and most of the neighbours will be out working! The fun is all gone!

  • JohnJ

    Instead of Merry Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus you could say Happy Birthday Mohammed – yep it is his birthday. Well, there are two days: one for the Sunni 23rd Dec (this year) and a few days later for the Shia.
    But the Wahhabi and co don’t celebrate birthdays – not even their own. So there is a good test of how fundamental your neighbors are. It’s easy to tell a Salafi!

  • AndeeVee

    These days Christmas day is just the day before the Boxing day test match.

  • Chris68

    To everyone who will be offended: Christmas pudding, christmas day, christmas crackers, christmas turkey, christmas decorations, christmas chrib, christmas eve, christmas snowballs, christmas bacon sandwiches, christmas reindeer, christmas star. The three kings, stable, manger, and look o’er there, a sweet baby Jesus. Happy christmas EVERYONE!

    • James Bly

      Seriously, no one is offended, this is a stupid tabloid myth you’re buying into.

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