November 22nd: it’s not Christmas, but neither is it not not Christmas.
If you work in a school, you understand what is meant by this concrete absence of something that is far from ‘nothing’. The opposite of a vacuum, it’s charged with fevered anticipation and expectation. Why?
The John Lewis advert has already dropped. Christmas rehearsals are beginning to stray beyond the parameters of the weekly music lesson, yet no one is officially allowed to utter the C-word. Welcome to the Pre-Christmas season dichotomy. It’s like pre-loading for the office party whilst simultaneously juggling two day jobs. It’s a curious blend of Christmas spirit, dogmatic denial and SEND reviews.
Pre-Christmas is not for the faint-hearted. Classroom environments vary massively. Some represent a Siberian wind tunnel; windows and fire doors flung fully ajar because Mrs Jones’ temperature remains a constant tropical-flush all year round. Others (younger staff members) eschew such ‘ventilation’ – preferring instead to culture abundant bacteria against the double glazing. This season’s Norovirus is literally dripping from the suggestion box. Pre-season induces a collective staff expression that can only be described as ‘grimacing’ like a Cheshire cat.
Because whilst the business of schooling continues, the magic of Christmas is real. And like it or not, it’s really here. The majority of primary children are expecting an intoxicated, bearded time-traveller to fly around the world and deliver their dreams via a chimney. Why? Because that’s what we’ve told them. They can’t not think about it, and I can’t blame them. Pre-Christmas is unsurprisingly one big pause-for-thought. We know Christmas is a special time. For children, multiply that by a hundred. Pre-season is just the beginning. But you can’t spell beginning without the ‘big’. Like a tinsel-tsunami, resistance is futile. Better go with it.
Or rather best go with it. Because whilst it’s undeniably full on, there’s no other profession that comes close to experiencing what it’s like to be genuinely overflowing with awe and wonder. Perhaps don’t fan the flames, but I implore you not to dampen the enthusiasm. Make the best of it. The world needs more enthusiasm right now. You, at your best, bring tidings of joy.
Best enjoy it. Accept it. Strap yourselves in. The ride has already begun, which probably explains a lot.