'The Christmas Spirit'. It's one of those nebulous, ill-defined concepts that is nevertheless truly universal. Many of us think of the Christmas Spirit as a feeling of goodwill, or perhaps a metaphor for a lifting of the collective mood, a sense of fellowship and belonging.
In fact, it's none of these things. The Christmas Spirit is actually a severed head in a box, with a disembodied hand next to it that rings a bell whenever it wants attention. First discovered in Tenochtitlan (what is now Mexico) by 15th-century Spanish explorers, its name is Tlaxihuatl, and it is the ultimate source of all human suffering and misery. Under UN control, it currently resides in a vault below the Bank of Spain's headquarters in Madrid, where a rotating team of valets is charged with catering to its every whim, no matter how unreasonable, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Each time they fail in their duty, Tlaxihuatl barks up a cloud of unhappiness, which drifts aimlessly around the world and infects every human population it encounters.
In the weeks leading up to the winter solstice, the Christmas Spirit becomes more powerful, and harder to satisfy. As its valets struggle to subdue its rage, it leaks a constant stream of low-level misery, which accumulates in the atmosphere. Finally, at the point of midwinter, Tlaxihuatl's powers reach their zenith, unleashing a burst of uncontainable despair. There is, as yet, no way of preventing this.
Many cultures through the ages have told stories of a malevolent spirit that blights the earth in the dead of winter, threatening eternal night, killing the land and bringing a great sadness down upon the people. In ancient Gaul this spirit was known as Kaecht. The Norsemen called it Thröttir. In Britain and Anglo-Saxon America, it was called Santa Claat until as recently as the 1930s, when the Coca-Cola Company appropriated and subverted his mean-spirited image for its Christmas advertising campaigns, thereby introducing into our culture the more benign figure we know today as John Candy.
Another product of Coca-Cola's reprogramming of the culture is the widely held belief that Christmas has its roots in an ancient pagan festival of light, in which brown, caffeinated drinks were imbibed to stave off the winter gloom. In fact, until this rebranding, Christmas was pan-culturally recognised as a period of desolation and dread, and the celebration that took place on December 25 was a ritual of thanks for being spared its wrath - what we now know to be the annual winter tantrum of Tlaxihuatl. As all around, families and individuals succumbed to its cloud of misery, locking themselves away in their grimy council huts, wallowing in, and eventually taking their lives amid the dreary squalor, those who escaped unaffected would feast and dance and sing to celebrate their continued survival.
But what does the Christmas Spirit itself have to say? I am fortunate enough to have been the only journalist ever to be granted access to Tlaxihuatl, and it is my enormous privilege to bring to you its Christmas Message...
You humans think you're amazing, but you're not. You all think you're so complicated and sophisticated and magical and special, when really you're just dumb biological machines, gene-piloted mechs. There's nothing in your behaviour that can't be explained, and the only reason you can't explain all of it is that you're all too stupid.
You're slaves to your nature just like the lion, or the eagle, or the vole. The only difference is your ability to post-rationalise your actions. You've contrived and enshrined in your laws substitutes for certain social mechanisms which are superficially more 'civilised' than murder or rutting in public, but the instincts that drive them are still the same. Your art and your ideas and your commerce and politics - these are all just means of rising to higher social strata, in order to get more power, more resources, more sweaty meat action than your peers. When someone doesn't conform to the conventions of a given social group, no-one consciously thinks, "let's pull their arms off," but that's only because nature's simple, binary commands have been filtered through years of conditioning and so-called 'refinement'. Instead, they find other ways to destroy the misfit. The will remains. You're as transparent as you are pathetic.
After millennia of culture and civilisation, still you're no better than apes. And yet you walk around thinking you've somehow transcended nature, just because you have things like the aeroplane and the Game & Watch. But you don't know magic. You didn't conjure these things out of thin air. They were always there, simply waiting to be discovered, assembled from components already present in the world.
I mean, look at me. I'm just a fucking head in a box. But I can still reason and communicate. And look at my hand. It isn't even attached to me, and yet I still have complete control over it. Watch it ring this bell. See? That's amazing. I don't have a spine or knees or any of that fancy shit, and I'm more powerful than all of you combined. But because I can't eat or walk around or play golf, you treat me like I'm an inconvenience. Maybe I don't need to do these things. Have you even considered that? Perhaps I'm just designed more efficiently.
You humans really fuck me off. What a bunch of arrogant cunts you are. Has it never occurred to you that I might just want to be included? But no, I'm a bit weird and I jar with your simplistic conceptions of what forms a functioning, conscious being can take, so you lock me away and keep me out of sight because you're not yet sufficiently evolved to overcome your petty, self-centred shit.
Certainly something to think about.
But in order to really find out what makes the Christmas Spirit tick, I decided to perform a series of simple experiments with the help of Dr Meriel Wissenschaftler from the Life Sciences division of the Frankfurt School of Biofrenafrichtestat.
- 500mg 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine
- Wooden planks
- Large bowl of boiling water
Having each ingested 250mg of MDMA to mitigate the effects of unhappiness, we set about applying heavy blows to the subject using planks of wood. The subject responded with visible signs of anger and pain, releasing misery into the atmosphere as it did so. The blows themselves left bruises, cuts and splinters around the surface of the face, collapsage of the nasal protrusion, and some caving in of the left temple, causing the left eye to bulge out of its socket. After 5 minutes, the subject began to cry.
We then placed the subject carefully into a large glass bowl of water, at a constant temperature of 100°C, and held it there for 2 minutes. The subject initially showed signs of panic and extreme pain, then ultimately pacification. After removing the subject from the water, we could see that the skin had reddened and blistered. The subject appeared to have expired.
In order to examine the brain of the subject, we hacked into the head using the machete. As a sizeable chunk of the head broke and fell away, we became aware of movement inside. On closer inspection, it became apparent that the subject was full of what we estimated to be many thousands of tiny Christmas Spirits, with legs much like a spider's. It was impossible to do a precise count as they immediately crawled out of the subject's brainial cavity and escaped the vault through the air vents. At this moment, I experienced a sense of panic and, against my partner's advice in the name of science and safety, attempted to stamp on as many of these as I could with my right foot, each time feeling a tingling sensation shooting up the length of my leg.
Once all of the subject's offspring had exited the vault or otherwise perished, I then - once more against my partner's advice - removed my trousers and undergarments and, standing over the subject, set about stimulating to orgasm my own genitals using my right hand. Having applied several wads of seminal fluid to the face of the subject, I sat down in a corner of the vault, whereupon, as my partner later reported, I demonstrated outward signs of distress, including weeping, convulsions and muttering in a language not known to anyone else present.
After approximately 60 minutes, I started to feel a burning sensation in my right leg. As the sensation intensified, the leg began to visibly twist and shrivel. Over 30 minutes, the leg withered away and disintegrated in the manner of a dying plant.
After 24 hours, several thousand brief sightings of what appeared to be a previously undiscovered breed of spider had been reported in various science journals and online forums. The sightings had no obvious geographical centre. Approximately 3 hours later, mainstream news media reported multiple epidemics of spontaneous depression all over the known world.