How can you go away for one week and come back to find your country taken over by the ghost of Christmas Pass’?
You know how – when you get off the plane in Hawai'i – you get given a lei as a welcoming token of native affection? Well, I could swear that when I stepped off the plane from Montevideo (via Sao Paulo) last week, I was in imminent danger of being garlanded with tinsel.
How can you go away for one week and come back to find your country taken over by the ghost of Christmas Passé? Yes, I came back to tack. Tack everywhere, festooned from the glass rafters of shopping centres, swinging cheaply from high street lampposts. If Rudolph's red this year, it's through embarrassment.
Now you may say, how is this different from all other years? Have I not noticed the carnage that is annually wrought on taste c.December 1?
The answer is that I have come back from the Southern hemisphere, where there is not even a rustling of a festive wreath in the salty breeze which blew into my living room over the 100 metres which separated my (borrowed) apartment from the Atlantic.
Now, Uruguay is a Catholic country, so there should be Christmas celebrations, but all this talk of snow and reindeer and fat men in red suits is completely alien to somewhere about to enter high summer, as well as somewhere which has not yet been taken over by marketing departments.
So given six thousand miles and a change of season, our Yuletide bacchanal is put in perspective. Which is why, when you're considering quite how much to lavish on a gift for the beloved, think again: if others survive without the horribly oppressive and conformist spirit of Christmas, why should we participate?
The answer, instead, is to look for simple and unadorned happiness, whether in the religious message of the season, or in the general humane hope it embodies, or in the time it gives us to spend with our loved ones (who, by the way, are already laden with baubles beyond need, desire or fitness).
And finally, when you're considering your own happiness, think of others who are not so fortunate and use some of your hard-earned cash to help those who will really appreciate it.
(If you're in need of an apposite suggestion, why don't you try Crisis, which provides homes for the homeless for eight days over Christmas?)