As the Panto-villain Katie Hopkins memorably pointed out, names matter. New parents buy books of names, agonise over this crucial choice, right?
Well, not if you’re the fifth girl-child it turns out. By that time by parents had run out of ideas and frankly interest in the whole naming business.
The truth of how my name was chosen has become somewhat blurred by exaggerated teasing and guiltily fervent counterclaim, but the process seems to have involved slips of paper and no one aged over 16. A cross between the Secret Seven and a Secret Ballot.
I can only give thanks that one of my sisters didn’t extract the slip marked ‘runt of the litter’ and instead I got a perfectly serviceable, if rather commonplace, first name; the middle name, however, is a little more risky.
Joy. Joy of Joys. Glad tidings of great joy.
Calling someone after an emotion is asking for trouble; like all those chunky Willows and clumsy Graces, what if being called ‘Joy’ had backfired horribly and I had lived my life as a walking oxymoron: ‘Oh, look there goes Miserable Joy…’
Well thankfully it didn’t work out that way – I am mostly pretty cheerful, perhaps sometimes gratingly so. And this time of year I get to sing some pretty cheerful songs about my name. Glad tidings of great joy, that’s what we’re promised. But only if we believe, only if we are saved.
For those who believe in the truth of the miracle of the Christ Child, the Word made flesh, then Joy is a very straightforward thing. Believe in Him, everlasting life, boom.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that many of the Christians seem rather devoid of joy and often, frankly, pretty cross this time of year. More than a little cross that the ‘true’ ‘real’ meaning of Christmas has been lost.
Stop, Christians, stop fretting that Christmas has lost all its joy and become a debauched frenzied orgy of consumption. Take it from me, Unhappy Christians, for I know ALL about Joy. (Cause it’s like, my name, yeah?) There is still a whole lot of Joy to be found in Christmas 2013, and we all have plenty, plenty to be joyful about. This nonsensical, magical patchwork of traditions and quasi-semi-religious feeling is still stuffed full of the sheer joy of living.
First of all, obviously there is a great deal of joy to be had in taking part in a debauched frenzied orgy of consumption with your nearest and dearest. The darkest days of the year, when we need to cuddle up close and look forward to the light and the warmth that’s coming. That we hope is coming.
We search for joy in traditions that we associate with our childhood, that we make our own. We search for joy in the sharing of booze and feasting and singing with friends and telling the old old stories. The joy between us that was here before that cracking viral story about the little baby born into poverty who changed the world by being kind and giving us hope, and the joy that the nativity story carries with it in its viral way, even – strangely, magically – to those who don’t believe it.
Well it’s a great story, full of beauty and, yeah, joy. The lowest and the highest brought together, the promise of new light. I can’t promise there will be eternal life (soz) but I can promise that the world will turn, that Sun / Son will come again and before you know it we will be walking through the golden daffodils and barefoot on the hot sand and crunching through the fallen leaves and the virgin snow and watching Love Actually again even though we’ve seen it loads of times and it’s a bit rubbish it makes us feel Christmassy and we all love feeling Christmassy and we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Joy isn’t like happiness. Joy is the kernel of the human condition, the heart of us all. Happiness can come and go, but no matter how crappy the situation, no matter how full the inns or how far you’ve travelled on that bloody donkey – go deeper and you will find human beings can find joy in any place, any time.
Christmas without Christ is not empty – and neither was Yule / Saturnalia / The Feast of Fools / Whatever they were celebrating at Avebury and Stonehenge.
Whenever people came together to sing and give and receive and eat a lot of Quality Street and drink mead or mulled wine and tell stories about the past and make plans for the future – even without the promise of eternal life, there is, always has been, joy in this one.