I have nothing against reindeer. They look cute, they're useful – in Lapland, at least. They taste good. But against Rudolph (with his nose so bright), I am rapidly developing an allergy. He was no part of Christmas when I was small: I made it to twelve before hearing his anthem. And successfully avoided him, it seems, until the last ten years or so.
Can one shop these days without hearing the paean to Rudolph ? (yes, but only if you want to hear some equally overdone jingle). Is any decoration truly complete without a glimpse of Rudolph and his shining schnozz? Can we sit through a school Christmas show without Little Darlings crowned with tinsel-decked horns and scarlet noses prancing around the stage telling us in Greek and English about how poor, mocked, downtrodden Rudolph turned his liability into an asset 'one foggy Christmas Eve'?
Spare me! And there are still nearly two weeks until Christmas Day – longer if you celebrate on Agios Vassilis Day – January 1 – rather than December 25th.
For years I have been threatening an alternative Christmas. I dream of presenting a choral evening with a couple of other singers performing traditional offerings like 'The Coventry Carol', 'I Saw Three Ships', 'The Holly and the Ivy', and a couple of more modern but alternative Christmas songs – John McCutcheon's 'Christmas in the Trenches' about the 1914 Christmas Truce, and Stan Rogers' 'First Christmas Away From Home' that I learned off a Black Family CD. But each year suddenly collapses into December and I realise that once again I have not planned it, organised it, practised the songs, or found a couple of like-minded singers. My son and I will probably satisfy ourselves belting out Eric Bogle's 'Santa Bloody Claus' and be done with it.
While making presents this morning, I got as far as listening to Coope, Boyes, and Simpson's a capella tracks of traditional English Christmas songs on 'A Garland of Carols' and Handel's Messiah. They have inoculated me, for today at least, against the schmaltzy muzak that I'll have to deal with in the supermarket. This year's Christmas is a home-made affair, down to the pud and presents, and while the music played I stuck smashed ceramic tiles onto tomato purée bottles and jam jars, transforming them into mosaic lamp-bases and pencil holders (they sound dire, but they're actually quite nice).
But back to Rudolph... Sally Fallon's fascinating cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, has some wonderful recipes for venison. Maybe if Rudy and his nose irritate me too much this year, I'll marinate him with lemon juice and thyme and put him in a stew.