Patrick Freyne examines some of the new additions to the Christmas calendar
The lead-up to Christmas would not be the same without Black Friday, Cyber Monday, John Lewis ad day and the Fine Gael ardfheis
Host Ryan Tubridy and the School of Uke ukulele orchestra from east Cork during auditions for the Late Late Toy Show in Cork. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
Black Friday (November 23rd)
You clutch the bloodstained Furby you have wrestled from a crying child while simultaneously kicking an octogenarian away from some tasteful kitchenware. The kitchenware looks stabby and may be of use later in the electronics department. You streak lines of blood across your cheeks to indicate a successful act of consumption and your value to a mate.
It’s Black Friday. You have a new American accent and a new Black Friday name (“Throttle-Fist the Purchaser”). You have acquired many, many bargains – foodstuffs, electronics, spices from the Orient. But at what cost? How will you return to your normal life after the things you have done? How will you sleep?
“Now that I’ve ripped that lovely white-noise machine from that crybaby on the crutches,” says you, “I’ll sleep like a goddamn infant.”
Black Friday was once an American-only phenomenon, in which businesses enticed shut-ins from their homes with low, low prices. We imported the concept a few years ago along with Netflix and social isolation. It’s basically The Purge and it’s common to find snooty Twitter folk being snobby about it, not realising what a bargain means to someone on a budget. Luckily you understand the importance of a bargain. And thus you have killed again for a box of Nespresso pods.
The Late Late Toy Show Day (November 30th)
There can be only one Toy Show. TV3 attempted to create a rival show but now that just consists of presenter Brian McFadden eating Easi Singles and weeping on the floor of an empty warehouse. They don’t even bother broadcasting it anymore.
The RTÉ iteration, however, is the most important day in the pre-Christmas calendar. Each year human-meerkat hybrid Ryan Tubridy and a passel of precocious children who will come to no good demonstrate the season’s best moulded plastic in dance while a nation rejoices.
When I was a boy it was clear when watching the Toy Show that most of these toys were fantastical makey-up things. Even if these wonders truly existed, they could only be purchased in Dublin, which I was told was far away in America (I’ve still never been). And so I was content with my hoop-and-stick and the “action figures” I made by drawing smiley faces on potatoes.
Nowadays parents will instead be forced to go into debt to purchase whatever depraved monstrosity their venal, snowflake progeny demand. You know the type of thing.
An X-Factor-branded karaoke machine that spits on your dreams.
An action man that s***s itself and can recite your bank details.
A doll that says “I love you” in a happy voice.
A teddy bear that says “I love you” in a less happy voice, then doesn’t believe you when you say you love it too and proceeds to write increasingly frantic and inappropriate emails to you at work.
A computerised chess set that says “I love you” in a happy voice, but will, one day, tell you it doesn’t love you anymore and has fallen for your brother Jeff. “It wasn’t planned, baby. It just happened,” it says. Damn it, Jeff!
Anyway, those are the types of toys kids have nowadays.
The Fine Gael ardfheis (November 17th and 18th)
Back in October we had budget day, which is sort of like Black Friday for middle Ireland. And last week we had the Fine Gael ardfheis which is sort of like the Toy Show for neo-liberals. The Fine Gael ardfheis wasn’t always a Christmas-themed event but since the party now styles itself as Santa for the in-denial wealthy (“the squeezed middle”), it seems apt that it happens in November which is now officially part of Christmas.
The best thing that emerged from this year’s ardfheis was a video of terrified Cabinet Ministers turning around to camera like sitcom characters before being forced to answer trivia questions by a cheesily-accented, multi-coloured roulette wheel.This is the first time cameras have been allowed into a Cabinet meeting and the first time members of the general public have seen Leo Varadkar’s true form. It kind of makes sense, in retrospect, that the Taoiseach is secretly a revolving wheel of colours. We all knew he liked to spin.
Luckily the deserving squeezed middle who get up early in the morning don’t care who rules them as long as they can still game the school system, skip the hospital queues and get top-rate tax cuts they don’t need. So on behalf of the paper I would like to welcome our new roulette wheel overlord and offer my column as an outlet for its most tone deaf policies.
Cyber Monday (November 26th)
A day in which retailers encourage online shopping and a day in which, eventually, the Great Algorithm will just skip the middle-man (you) and send stuff directly to your Eircode address based on your previous purchases. And you’ll like it. After all, your online consumer profile feels realer than you do at this stage.
John Lewis ad reveal day (November 15th)
Every year now Britain’s major retailers make us think about the fragility of existence and times past with whimsical Christmas advertisements. Why? Because as every first-year business student can tell you: “Contemplating the fragility of existence and times past = sadface emoji = $$$$”.
And thus each Christmas we get a clutch of ads that involve, at some point, someone looking pensively out of a window while melancholy music plays. We don’t need these ads in Ireland because we have the Angelus every day, a more basic version of this experience soundtracked by bells bonging.
In the UK, however, “John Lewis ad reveal day” is that nation’s solitary moment of reflection. This year’s John Lewis ad focuses on the life of bewigged, sad-faced, piano fumbler Elton John. For the Angelus experience, just turn down the volume and add bongs.
David Attenborough saving penguins day (date to be confirmed)
Not an official day of celebration yet, but it will be soon given how much it already resembles a John Lewis Christmas ad. It was revealed this week that, while filming a documentary, David Attenborough’s film crew spotted some penguins, the most Christmassy of animals, trapped in a gully. They proceeded to forge a snow ramp via which the penguins could escape.
This shocked some nature documentary purists who can recall an era when documentarians (like Tories) preferred to let things die rather intervene and when Attenborough would have probably savaged those penguins to death with his own teeth rather than let them live and pollute the gene pool with their failure. Anyway, that won’t fly with the meme-friendly humans of today. By next year we will remember this event as David Attenborough literally saving the penguins himself, possibly in some sort of balloon or zeppelin. And sure, why not?
Culchie Christmas (December 8th)
Winter is coming, Dubliners, and soon our rural friends will shuffle to the city walls, smelling of cabbage and regional development plans, intent on haggling you into a bargain and an admission that they now have good coffee in Athlone.
“I don’t even own a shop!” you cry, as a Laois man convinces you to sell him your shoes and offers you his spittle-flecked hand for inspection.
“Now we’re sucking diesel!” says the Laois man through a mouthful of chewing tobacco, Curly Wurly and TK Red Lemonade, and soon you’re signing some mysterious documents on the bonnet of his tractor.
“What does this even mean?” you cry, before falling to your soft Dublin knees and weeping like an Englishman excluded from a trade agreement.