Happy Christmas to Me

Source: The Irish Post
Author: Shane MacGowan
Contributor: Ingrid Knetsch
Copyright: (c) The Irish Post

Shane MacGowan was born on Christmas Day, 1956. Here, he dons his reporter’s cap and tells us what the day means to him and all he wants for Christmas (no, not his two front teeth!).

I think Christmas is a beautiful religious holiday if it is taken in the right spirit because it’s Christ’s birthday and Christ was a wonderful man. I think everyone should get drunk and have a good time and give each other presents if they really want to, although I think that’s just turning it into a consumer-load of rubbish. I never believed in Father Christmas because, in Ireland, they didn’t have him, not in the house I was brought up in. They didn’t insult my intelligence by expecting me to believe that a guy all the way from the Arctic Circle came along with flying reindeer and a carriage and came down the bloody chimney and shoved an effing clockwork mouse in my sock, you know what I mean?

When my parents tried to introduce him in England, I just cynically took the extra present and tried to keep my straight face when they asked me if Santa Claus had been. My dad never asked me if Santa Claus had been because he was always telling me he never existed – he blew the gaffe straight away, although I already knew he loved destroying children’s dreams when he was drunk. My mother was the only one who made a vain attempt to keep up the pretence and salvage some innocence from my childhood.

There ain’t no sanity clause. All that bullshit you can keep but it’s Christ’s birthday and it’s great to have a time when men and women and children are meant to love each other and look after each other and be good to each other at least once a year. It’s a pity they can’t be like that all year round. Of course, it isn’t really like that because they usually become violent. Irish family Christmases are notoriously horrific because skeletons usually come out of the cupboards, old family feuds come out and it ends up with someone going to get a shotgun, so peace and goodwill to all men isn’t really what I associate with Christmas. But it is also my birthday and, yes, I am very flattered that people all around the world are celebrating my birthday.I get less presents, not more, because people are tight. Christmas never used to be that big a deal in Ireland when I was a kid. It was a big religious festival, with midnight Mass as the highlight. That was a very beautiful thing, watching all the drunks trying to stand up and then later being one of the drunks trying to stand up beside my mother, who is also trying to stand up while the priest chanted beautiful Gregorian chants in Latin. It’s a beautiful Mass and it’s a situation I love to write songs about – the drunk at midnight Mass, the sublime and ridiculous at the same time, the debased and the divine, beautiful experience.

I don’t like Christmas food, none of it, because it’s guaranteed to give you a pain in the belly. When I was a kid it was more often goose but I don’t eat turkey or goose, not any more. I don’t like plum pudding but I like Christmas cake. I like the drinking but, I mean, it isn’t that much different to any other day for me except I’ve got an excuse.

I do get presents from my parents although I keep telling them not to get me anything.When I was much younger and poorer, I used to just ask them to give me the cash, which they were agreeable to. They were not ungenerous at Christmas, with it being my birthday as well, but my mother always insisted on giving me presents as well being a mother.

Now they just give me nice things, nothing outrageous, things like IRA calendars and videos of the year’s Tipperary hurling. That Big Tom poster that’s on my new album was a Christmas present.

This year, I’d be happy with whatever I get, Irish records or books. I don’t drink spirits any more, I’m not able to. I used to look forward to getting a bottle of Redbreast at Christmas, which is very special old Irish whiskey made by Jamesons, but I don’t drink whiskey any more. A bottle of schnapps I wouldn’t mind.