I'm not a Christmas person. Naturally I was when I was a child (I think), but, as an adult, I view Christmas as an irritating tedium.
What is it about Christmas that gets under my skin? I quoted Christopher Hitchens in my 'Christmas post' last year and I will quote him again:
.'.what I have always hated about the month of December: the atmosphere of a one-party state. On all media and in all newspapers, endless invocations of the same repetitive theme. In all public places, from train stations to department stores, an insistent din of identical propaganda and identical music. The collectivisation of gaiety and the compulsory infliction of joy.'
I was going to post the same post this year - bar a few minor changes - but there's something different happening in 2008, the year global capitalism went into meltdown.
At my local mall, the same Christmas decorations are up and the same awful Christmas music is being piped through the sound system. Bloody 'Snoopy's Christmas'.
And the retailers - backed by their trusty allies, the corporate media - are using exactly the same arsenal of Christmas bullshit to coax/harass people into buying stuff they probably don't need.
Last year, on the back of an overheated housing market and easy credit, Christmas platitudes and false Christmas bonhomie was enough to drive the punters into opening the wallets and purses. The formulae was a simple one: the Christmas 'spirit' means spending money.
But the formulae isn't working this year because the 'bubble' has burst, the economy has collapsed - times are getting tough.
In my local mall the stores have dramatically cut prices in a desperate attempt to get the volume of sales they need. The economic imperative is that many retailers rely on the three or four weeks leading up to Christmas to get them through the next year.
Judging by what's happening in my mall, its going to be a rough year for many of them and some of them may go to the wall. Unlike last year the buying frenzy is missing, people are spending less.
Last week figures showed that applications for credit were down almost thirty percent on one year ago while loan defaults were on the rise.
Just today investment firm Goldman Sachs - who have added to the dole figures themselves this year - predicted that unemployment could rise as much as 75,000 next year. I think this is an optimistic view.
While last year the party was in full swing, this year the stereo has been switched off and the lights have been switched on. People are being told to go home.
The black economic clouds of 2009 are looming on the horizon.
People are rightly worried about the future and the calculated jollity of retailers and the media just doesn't cut it. They are standing alone in the living room with their party hats on while everyone else heads for the door.
There's something in the air and it isn't a fat guy in a sleigh.