Unless church attendances dramatically pick up then the C of E could be just a generation away from extinction. How that ordains our path in the hereafter will be an act of, er God; His parting shot, presumably. How it affects a seasonal spending spree on which the retail trade – and in its wake, the packaging industry – is disproportionately dependent is a far less temporal concern.
Having spirited Christmas away from the pagans a couple of millennia ago, some admittedly unseasonal schadenfreude might be forgiven at the logical outcome of Sunday worship forfeited to the High Street. So, Mammon 1 Christianity 0 then. However, the combination of boarded up churches and access to a shopping channel that stays open 24/7 are sure signs that the Christmas we knew and loved has passed its best-by date.
Far sooner than it takes to spawn that next generation it’s predicted that one-fifth of our seasonal shopping will be conducted online. With unlimited choice, an on-demand lifestyle and Wonga, why wait until December 25th for what we can have on any of the other 364 days in the year?
Given that we’re increasingly more comfortable managing our affairs – not least those of the heart – by remote control and in the security of solitary confinement, the prospects of sustaining what’s intrinsically an exercise in communal goodwill aren’t too promising. Time was when 29m of us sat down together at the same time before the TV on Christmas evening with Morecambe and Wise. Nowadays, Hull is both the UK’s online shopping capital as well as its putative city of culture. Connect the dots and go figure.
As a wholly commercial occasion, Christmas future is a shoe-in for re-branding. We’ve substituted Apple, Chanel and Jo Malone for gold, frankincense and myrrh, we’re watching over flocks of organically-reared, track and trace tagged sheep. We could change the name, although right now Noel sounds too B-list celeb; Crimble too Beatles. Otherwise, we could tick the heritage box and go head to head with Easter, even though that would mean putting all our eggs in one basket. But birth and death as a BOGOF: I like the thinking; I see the John Lewis ad.
Or we could just reposition it as the ultimate Saturday night with a new front-man to replace the resident elderly gent with the camp dress sense, cheesy jokes and hollow laugh. Someone to put the X back into an Xmas: a new messiah for a material world. But strictly no facial hair. And hopefully not called Simon. For now though: tidings of comfort and joy all round – and see you after the break.
Des King is a freelance journalist specialising in packaging. Send your comments for Des to firstname.lastname@example.org