Good riddance, Christmas

Here's something I want to shout from my shimmering tin roof so I can feel the relief as the words leave my body, as my heart begins to beat again, as my brain clicks back into gear, as my whole being finds its beautiful natural shape. IT'S OVER, IT'S OVER, IT'S OVER.

Christmas, you vacuous tart, you slobbering drunk, you're done and dusted. And New Year's Eve, good riddance to you, too. Normal, predictable, boring days: I'm all yours, come have your wicked way with me. These are the words I want to scream until I'm giddy with life, even if they edge me that much closer to a padded cell.

No, I'm not a fan of year's end. As November, that month of calm before the storm, trips over itself into December, everything good and reasonable goes belly up. Political leaders prepare YouTube Christmas messages hoping they'll come across as our favourite uncle but really they're the uncle we want to forget. Supermarkets play surreptitious carols in the background as we stock up on food as though the end is nigh. In main streets and malls, under harrowing heat and while being dive-bombed by blowflies, shopkeepers have their shopfronts spray-painted white to give the impression of snow but really it just looks as though the signwriter had a stroke. At work, after slaving away at deadlines that are as meaningful as a blow-up Santa tethered to the letterbox, we wear reindeer antlers on our heads and in the tearoom stand anxiously as ''gifts'' are handed around - nice, another bottle of salad-dressing well past its use-by date.

At home, we drag the plastic tree from the back of the spare cupboard, plonk it in the corner of the loungeroom, and wait for the lights to flash miraculously so we can stare at them until we pass out of an evening. On the 25th, that hollowest of days, some of us go to church, hoping that by murdering a Thomas Tallis hymn all the evil things we've considered and done will be washed away and we can exit the building as happy as fat Elvis. Later, we'll gorge on turkey or seafood (if we want to be that little bit more ''Australian''), we ram into our gobs fruitcake and custard, we drink booze till we pick fights about things that only matter now that we've received yet another seven-pack of socks.

To be sure, Christmas in Australia is bereft of good sense. We only go through it because it once made us feel special as children. But we're not children any more.

Thankfully there's Boxing Day. Oh what sweet relief. You can feel the world begin to wake from its awful, awful slumber. We can go to the beach till we're as cooked as a tandoori chicken skewer. We can read good novels ad infinitum. We can turn off the old brain-box and watch the cricket or the Sydney to Hobart. We can snack on left-overs - a ham toasty at 10am anyone? Have a nap before lunch, after lunch, whatever takes your fancy, go for gold, knock yourself out.


But there's a ticking time-bomb. New. Year's. Eve. That annual festival of piss in the streets, crowds like flies to roadkill, multimillion-dollar fireworks that send birds shaking into the empty dark at the edges, and the latest accessory for the pumped up and tattooed: the coward's punch. The following morning: yes, yes, yes, welcome new year, thanks for coming, but please don't talk back to me because my head feels as though it's been whacked repeatedly with a traffic cone.

As Eddie Cochran sang, ''There ain't no cure for the summertime blues.''

But perhaps there is. How good summer would be without Christmas and New Year's Eve. Imagine it: after surviving the delicious gloom of winter and riding the bump and grind of spring we could just enjoy the long, long days, the bright light, the warmth on our skin. We could sunbake in the backyard, only looking up to see how the tomato plants and the basil are doing.

On the hottest of days we could draw the curtains and shutters and enjoy the stillness, the emptiness, the quiet. We could keep our nostrils alert for the waft of bushfire smoke, not because a dribbling preacher told us it was a good idea but because we just want to help out friends and neighbours. At night we could curl up with the partner of our choice and sleep beneath a single sheet, feel the dry lightness of the air on our resting bodies. This could be the extent of December 25, 2014.

So let's ban religious public holidays and let's forget about the counting down of numbers - these things, at least the way we do them here at the bum-end of the world, without much thought, without any kind of reflection, are meaningless. Interesting that my always dependable Oxford Dictionary gives two definitions for summer: (1) the warmest season of the year; (2) the highest level of achievement or status. Is summer, the way we do it in Australia, us at our best? Hardly.

Then again, perhaps that's what our summer is meant to be: meaningless. When we have heat and beaches and wide open spaces and good money in our bank accounts and too-frequently-washed SUVs parked in our driveways and ready to take us wherever we want, we don't need to think about anything. When the mercury bleeds over 35 degrees we have all the permission we need to be lazy, the laziest possible, and just let the world go by, go on without us, leave us marinating in the backyard pool with a stubby in hand, the sun beating down on the back of our heads and burning away what remains of our IQ, the lawn needing a mow but that can wait for another day.

Yes, it's the truth: Christmas and New Year's Eve spoil a perfectly decent season.

At least there's glorious autumn to look forward to.

Nigel Featherstone is the author of the novellas Fall on Me and I'm Ready Now.