However, I, and probably many other writers, have the urge to write about Christmas actually at Christmas, to write about Mothers Day on Mothers Day – you get it. The reality is that it’s easier to write meaningfully about a season when you’re actually experiencing it. So, I have just, this last week, written a Christmas story, and handed it in to my face-to-face writing group. Following their feedback in February, my plan is to put it away and dust it down next July. Ooh… if only I can make a sale to one of the womags!
The problem with writing secular Christmas fiction is that most of the angles have, not only been done before, but are pretty well exhausted – happy families, unhappy families, happy reunions, alone at Christmas, working at Christmas, and sick at Christmas. You’ve read it before. But making a sale (although a consideration, obviously – I'm human and a writer) is not the only reason for wanting to write about Christmas. Shouldn’t I be spreading the Word of God too? We live in a secular age. Tesco is selling children’s jumpers with ‘Seasons Greetings’ and ‘Happy Holidays’ emblazoned across them and trendy local authorities are celebrating ‘wintervals’. Recently, I read about a writer who was tossing up whether to spend her evening writing her novel or her ‘holiday cards’. The novel, every time, dear. What is the point of sending a ‘holiday card’ (unless you mean a postcard from your holiday destination, which I don’t think you do)? There would be no point to those jumpers either… or my Christmas story, which is all about a radio presenter doing the Christmas Day shift... except that, actually, they all point to something much bigger.
You hear all the songs about sleigh bells in the shopping centres. You hear people, often adults, saying they hope their friends will receive everything they desire from Santa Claus. You see people falling out of Christmas parties. But, in a roundabout way, all this is keeping the real Christmas alive.
Last week, I took my three year old grandson to a Christingle service, at my own church, amidst children just a few years older, many of whom knew all about ‘Santa’ but nothing of Jesus. In a lively thirty minute service, our wonderful vicar gave them a lot to think about, by asking them why they receive presents at this time of year? Whose birthday is it, exactly?
There’s no need for we Christian writers to hold back from writing those non-stable and non-manger Christmas stories. Let everyone have themselves a commercial little Christmas, if that’s what they want, because one day, I pray, they will ask what it’s all for.