Christmas Is Not About Our Hubris

December 20, 2021 Updated: December 20, 2021


Here’s a theme for a modern Christmas carol. “People are blasting Chanel’s $825 advent calendar on TikTok. TikTok users unboxing Chanel’s $825 advent calendar are complaining about the quality of items in the holiday package.” Dickens being unavailable, what sort of tale can I make of this news item about Karen meets Marley?

For starters, I can’t imagine Tiny Tim blasting anything on TikTok. That kid was so revoltingly sweet and wholesome he probably would have stayed off Twitter entirely. And I doubt the pre-ghost Scrooge bought an advent calendar at all and if he did I’m pretty sure he didn’t spend $825 on it.

Don’t get me wrong. Buying an expensive advent calendar doesn’t make you inherently a bad person. There’s a widespread, ill-informed animus against buying luxury items on the theory that the money should have been spent “creating jobs.” But it takes a lot of work to make a yacht, mostly not performed by rich people. Ditto a fancy advent calendar.

Nor is it a bad thing to buy something nice and share it at Christmas. Post-redemption, Scrooge sends the Cratchits a turkey. And while you may groan “Not another turkey” while secretly scheming to have roast beast for Christmas dinner then chocolate cake instead of steamed duff or whatever that stuff even was, back in the day wholesome, delicious turkey was for the rich and scrawny, greasy goose the best the poor could muster. It was a generous gift.

Incidentally, an online dictionary informs me that “duff” is in fact “a boiled or steamed pudding often containing dried fruit.” Though it can also mean “the partly decayed organic matter on the forest floor,” “fine coal,” your posterior, or simply “inferior, worthless.” And the traditional Christmas dessert, I believe, involved the first, last, and possibly second. But I digress.

The point is that Scrooge 1.0 and Jacob Marley didn’t buy one another advent calendars. Nor did Scrooge get any enjoyment from hoarding his money; he ate gruel and denied himself extra bread that would only cost a “ha’penny.” Oh, the halcyon days when half a penny was money, before we were visited by the ghosts of free money past, debt present, and inflation yet to come. And while frankly I suspect the bread in question might have been better avoided, he chose the restaurant.

By contrast, after he is redeemed, Scrooge does things like raise salaries and buy Bob Cratchit hot punch and Tiny Tim medicine. And that they were of superior quality is a good thing. Tiny Tim lived, after all. (No Oscar Wilde sarcasm from the back please.) Punch should taste good, especially when shared.

So if someone gives me an advent calendar, I’ll accept it gratefully. Even if it contains milk chocolate or, I suppose, a magnet and money clip. Which the Chanel one evidently did. And, NBC adds, “The calendar, which starts on Dec. 5 instead of the first day of the month as a nod to the iconic perfume Chanel No. 5, features such items as a keychain, a Chanel-stamped wax seal and a perfume bottle-shaped paperweight.”

Starting on a different day to celebrate yourself, not the birth of Christ, is a classic modern touch. So is buying the thing for yourself, then emitting a cloud of toxic rage online because you didn’t like the gifts you got for that special someone in your life, even though you knew in advance what they were. Including the cheapo stickers. See, “In a statement to People magazine, Gregoire Audidier, the international communication and client experience strategy director for Chanel Fragrance & Beauty, pointed to the brand’s website, noting that customers can see everything in the calendar if they buy it online.”

If Scrooge and Marley were operating today, I imagine they would have a client experience strategy director. But I would not want to be that person. Just as The Economist recently tried to sell me a $2,490 “Professional Communication: Business Writing and Storytelling” course that began by asking, “Do you know why ‘granular’ is edging out ‘detailed?’” No, and the word shall not pass my lips. Mercifully the course wasn’t “curated.” But it offered a chance to “Take your writing skills to the next level in 2022” and hyped contributors, including someone from a “Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication” and a “Data-visualisation consultant and educator.” There’s more than one way to sell your soul.

So here’s a weird idea. How about an advent calendar given joyfully and received gratefully that celebrates not the imperial self but the coming, 2,000 years ago, at the bleakest time of the year, of a promised gift beyond imagining? To shepherds and wise men who would not have dreamt of going online to rant about the tawdry rip-off stable, vulgar smelly beasts, and low-rent Nazarenes within.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Robson
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”