Vignettes of Ruin and...

Mistress Christmas (the Demonic Face of the Holiday Season)

In Gluttony on December 24, 2011 at 9:11 pm

I love Christmas. I think she’s beautiful. I get a little warm inside when I see fairy lights threaded to cold bare branches. The spicy perfume of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg is heady and delicious. It is difficult to avoid getting swept up in the bustling preparations, the choosing of foods for a special, festive menu. Walking home in the dark of evening, I like looking in resplendent living room windows, to the hearth of strangers homes, wondering what it might be like to be a part of their family.  And of course, the brightly wrapped presents festooned in ribbons and bows!

But much like mysterious gifts, it’s the anticipation that can prove to be the best part. That is how Christmas likes to operate. Her hook is promise.

And I am her happy agent.


Every year I buy a special decoration.

Last year, it was Waterford Crystal baubles. The year before that, it was a hand painted bauble. Before that, a wooden carved Santa. This year, hand-stitched and beaded figures from “the Nativity.” I suspend them from golden threads on silver branches and set them in the hall.

I have spent hours drawing up Christmas menus, and more hours writing out shopping lists. I obsessed about what I am going to offer my guests for dinner. I book the days before Christmas off work, just so I can start preparing the meal days in advance.

Canapés for Christmas Eve will include cranberry & ginger chipolatas. Thai spiced sausage rolls. Goat’s cheese, roast red pepper and walnut palmiers. Pecan and brie crisps, drizzled in honey.

Christmas Breakfast will buttery toasted soda farls topped with scrambled egg and maple crispy bacon and fresh squeezed orange juice.

Christmas dinner will be lemon and thyme crown of turkey with pecan herb stuffing and a cranberry and clementine sauce. There will be glazed ham, falling off the bone. The slaughter will be celebrated with roasted garlic baby potatoes, parmesan parsnips, marmalade carrots and chestnut-sprouts.

The table is decked out with winter berries and bare winter twigs spray painted in silver. Each place setting will name its guest and a luxury cracker will be on every waiting plate.

Christmas spiced candles will scent the air and the spare bedrooms have been made up with fresh blankets and the curtains tied with ribbons.

A small fortune has been spent on serious gifts. I have borrowed money, maxed out credit cards and spent every last cent of my wages- and Vincent’s.

My Christmas must be the best, must be remembered as the most wonderful Christmas there ever was. I sing along to music, happily- yes! happily! making preparations in my new kitchen.

But as I am grabbing a fistful of pecan herb stuffing from the processor, I feel a sharp pain in my finger. I pull out and realised I have sliced off part of my fingertip. A few seconds pass before dark red blood oozes from the sliced skin, before picking up momentum and falling in a steady drip.


I begin a descent into meltdown.

How the hell is everything supposed to get done now? Christmas can’t be Christmas if i don’t make damn sure it’s Christmas! The cakes won’t get baked, the sauce won’t get made, the turkey won’t fucking stuffed. As I think rapidly about all the seemingly menial tasks I accomplish that apparently rely on a single fingertip, I feel dizzy. Shredding the carrots, peeling potatoes, cutting parsnips into wedges, wrapping gifts, scrubbing the tiled floor, washing my goddamn hair…

There is too much to do.

I scream at Vincent to help me now or help me God!

Is my hair receding on one side? he asks me mournfully, trying to check out his reflection in the window pane. It’s like he hasn’t heard me, or seen me bleeding, it’s like I don’t exist.

Something snaps in me. I’m going to kill him! I’m going to take that copper pan and whack him over his semi-balding head!

But then the room changes. It is Christmas day and everyone is gathered around the table. Only they are not who they are supposed to be, and it is not my table, or even my house. I am standing in a great hall, where beautiful people robed in finery are laughing and eating delicious food around a long stately table. There is music and candlelight and the scent of fir. At the head, on a kind of throne sits Christmas. She is radiant and shimmering, with berries and leaves in her hair. She beckons.

Come eat at my table, she says.

But as soon as I sit, where once was a merry-making crowd, dessicated corpses sit hunched and silent and a long table, the tendons in their yawning jaws like straw, their finger nails yellowed and eyes empty. Their bellies are split up to their necks and guts spilled at their feet. Where there might have been a feast, fruits and accompaniments have rotted and collapsed. The air is pungent with the heavy stench of decay from the carcasses that litter the table, maggots drip from the bones, fat from foul flesh.

Open my gifts, she says. They are all for you.

I find myself  inexorably drawn towards her altar, reaching out with my bloodied hand to touch the presents. I grip velvent ribbon and pull, I tear gilted paper away. But everything I unwrap turns to dust.

Sing with me, she commands, and like a puppet given life by its master, I open my mouth to sing, but only a dry rasp escapes me. I can feel my throat  ripping like paper. I reach up to touch it and I can see bones piercing through leathered skin. The life is being sucked out of me!

Like all her other subjects, I wanted to feel that way again, how it was when I was a kid, when I believed so easily and so heartily in Santa, in magic reindeers and Jesus. Now that I was old enough to appreciate it, I’ve wanted to capture that spirit, that warmth. And I would give everything I had in exchange for it. I’ve wanted that fairytale Christmas too much.

But it’s something we can never have.

Like true love.


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