Christmas is a time for children.
In the pub game this means that your customers – who are mostly sensible grown-ups going about their daily lives, worrying about bills and enjoying the casual pleasures of easy weekends and early midweek bedtimes – suddenly turn into overgrown toddlers.
It usually begins in mid to late November when they get hypnotised by ridiculously sentimental ads by John Lewis, M&S, Sainsbury’s and the rest of the international asset-strippers who foist puppies, penguins, kids with speech impediments and old people inexplicably stuck on the moon on us to make us realise that it’s almost time to pretend that we celebrate the birth of a child whose mother got knocked up whilst in an as-yet-unconsummated relationship with a local builder. I’m guessing she thought on her feet, babbled a hurried excuse and managed to fool half the Middle-East into believing that her unborn child was actually the son of God. Imagine her relief when she looked down just after it was born and realised that it was, thankfully, a boy. I bet she hadn’t been that pleased to see a penis for at least nine months.
And now, two millennia later, Colin is cross because there are no decorations up and is demanding that the tree be prettier than last year. That’s right, Colin. Colin who thinks that there hasn’t been one good song in the charts since 1979. Colin who will never be in when the band’s on or a DJ is playing. Colin who will look sideways and tut at the hen nights and the birthday groups. This same Colin will, for six weeks of the year, wish to be surrounded by pretty tinsel and flashing lights. He wants Slade, Wizzard and Cliff Richard on a loop until January. He wants party-poppers and crackers and mulled wine and mince pies on the fucking bar. He wants all the staff in Santa outfits and he demands that everyone be happy because “It’s Christmas”
Yes, okay, I’m being ultra-cynical, and I do actually really enjoy the Christmas week: people are generally very happy and merry, they have a good time in your pub and, for a week or two, trade is very good in a local boozer.
The food pubs and town pubs can milk it for an awful lot more with staff parties and family gatherings of course, but for your traditional community pub it’s a 10 day season. We take the hit whilst the trolley rage at Tesco builds, twiddle our thumbs whilst people donate their savings to Amazon, and prepare for the rush whilst shoppers swear that they’re never giving another penny to those useless twats at Argos.
Then it begins.
Black Friday hasn’t always been a day when people fight in the aisles over cheap TVs. It used to describe the day when the entire workforce hit the pubs at 11 am on the Friday before Christmas. It still does, but the Americans have never heard of this so of course now it’s associated with people queuing up from 4am to buy any old shit from Next because it’s cheaper than it was the day before.
Black Friday, for pubs, can be a bit tense. It’s a good earner, but a drunken gang of builders celebrating no work for two weeks and revelling in their last romp with their work mates before they’re on family duties until January is not for the faint-hearted. The boss can be very generous at this time of year; the competition to make the most of a free bar can be fierce and the collective sigh of relief from landlords, landladies and bar staff can be heard throughout the land when the bolt slides across the door to shut out the sirens and the blue flashing lights of the vehicles that some of the more volatile Jesus-worshippers will be using as late night transport.
So once Colin is placated with his tinsel and his tree, and Black Friday has been and gone. Once the rotas are done and the rows over double-time are sorted. Once the cellar is full and the entertainment is booked it’s time to forget the hypocrisy and the lunacy of the last six weeks of commercial bullying and distinct lack of goodwill in car parks and supermarkets.
It’s time to party.
From the Saturday before Christmas until New Years Day the local pub is a beautiful place. It’s full of hugs and handshakes and kisses; feuds are forgotten and friendships are made. There’s singing and dancing, and, as publicans, we revel in the happiness and love. It’s a great time to do what we do, and we forget the worries of the trade, enjoy the atmosphere and the accolades, and visualise a utopian future where pubs are like this all the time.
Then some utter tool invented Dry January and reality hits before the decorations are down.