David Bouchier

Commentator

David began as a print journalist in London and taught at a British university for almost twenty years. After coming to the United States in 1986 he continued to teach and to publish a regular humor column in The New York Times regional edition.  He joined WSHU as a weekly commentator in 1992, becoming host of Sunday Matinee in 1996. His latest book of essays, Peripheral Vision, was published in 2011. His other books include A Few Well Chosen Words, The Song of Suburbia, The Cats and the Water Bottles, The Accidental Immigrant and Writer at Work. He lives in Stony Brook, New York with his wife who is a professor at Stony Brook University, and two un-musical cats.

It’s January, it’s a New Year, and the bills for the holidays are beginning to come in. All those happy credit card purchases that seemed so effortless at the time now, suddenly, have a real price tag attached. We often hear how much simpler and less expensive The Holidays were in “the old days,” and it’s true, I was there in the old days, and I remember that Christmas gifts in particular were annoyingly small and cheap. Children naturally prefer flashy and expensive, and I can’t help feeling some envy for the kids of today.

This strange, unfocussed interval between Christmas and New Year seems to depress and disorient a lot of people. In the not too distant past, when we were not expected to be so frantically busy, this whole period was an extended winter festival dedicated to family visits, religious observances, and just having fun. In England in the Middle Ages it was a time of continuous feasting and merrymaking, which never stopped until Twelfth Night, January 6th, the traditional end of the Christmas season.

We drove out along the north fork of Long Island last week, passing a steady stream of cars and SUVs heading the other way, loaded with Christmas trees. They were tied on to roofs, hanging perilously out of car trunks, and even protruding from side windows. Pumpkin madness is over, and Christmas tree madness has arrived.

Only ten shopping days until Christmas, and panic has set. Not only do we have the impossible task of choosing gifts for others, but we have to face that most dreaded and unanswerable question: "What do you want for Christmas?"

This past weekend on Long Island the village of Port Jefferson hosted its very popular annual Dickens Festival. This has evolved into a big event, with dozens of historical and cultural programs and happenings loosely connected to the Dickensian version of Christmas. The sidewalks are made picturesque by actors in period costume: chimney sweeps, bobbies, ragged urchins, and Dickens characters.

Pages