In his latest column for AnOthermag.com, Meadham discusses his favourite festival, ‘Cristmas’ – a ritual of “glitter, warmth and pleasure”
Edward Meadham has a remarkable mind, to which his work as a fashion designer attests. His creations are infused with references to his loves, interests and obsessions – “Beautiful things, craft and subculture,” as he once told us. In his column for AnOthermag.com, Meadham writes about these obsessions, guiding us through the things that inspire him.
Birthdays simply mark another year closer to the inevitable decay of old age and bring about nothing worth celebrating – they’re just an awkward day of people prefixing every sentence with a misplaced and insincere wish of happiness. Other people’s birthdays are even more of a chore.
Halloween, meanwhile, seems to be just an excuse for people to revel in the hedonism that they already exercise every weekend – and most weeks nights too – with the exception of doing it in fancy dress, allowing them to live out some fantasy of their weak personalities that they’re otherwise are too afraid to express. (I always felt that Halloween is for the repressed; would we even need a prescribed day and permission to wear a costume if everybody was just themselves anyway? I choose to dress fancy every day of the year instead of just on October 31.)
Bank holidays mean nothing to me and Easter is a strange custom celebrating a ghost from an ancient fairy tale, while New Year’s Eve brings only dictated scheduled, false fun and more empty instructions to be happy, coupled with the dread of what lies ahead in the vast expanse of a whole unused year. Nothing could be worse. I do quite like Valentine’s Day – well, I like to collect totems of Valentine’s past: empty vintage heart-shaped chocolate boxes and embossed celluloid cards from the 1930s. The colours, the ribbons – it all appeals to various aspects of my aesthetic.
But the only traditional national holiday that I really care about is Crismas – spelled intentionally without the H or T, thus removing any and all connotations of Christ. For me, Crismas itself is almost like a religious indulgence in glitter, warmth and pleasure, where Father Crismas becomes the deity I celebrate with ritualistic preparations. Every year, I cannot resist beginning early – usually just after the hurdle of my birthday in early June.
Around the time when every park in London is heaving with half-naked bodies, and the air begins to fill with the smell of chemical smoke from disposable BBQs; when most other people are planning their summer festival looks, working on their beach bodies and going on their summer holidays, somewhere in my subconscious my brain begins to countdown the days until Crismas. I begin scouring the internet for old Russian painted-mercury glass decorations, or American 1960s jewel-bright baubles and unused boxes of crackers, ones which contain the plastic ephemeral treasures which can save even the worst Crismases: strings of lime-green plastic beads, rings in shape of bats, thimble-like objects to put on the tips of tiny fingers complete with long red nails, rubber lips, and little moustaches that clip painfully to the septum.
At some point in the 1990s, this type of little object which filled crackers was replaced by a depressing array of “useful” and supposedly tasteful chrome objects like nail clippers, cork screws or stoppers to put on opened wine bottles. It is probably possible to trace this change in cracker contents to the time before the word Crismas filled me with joy – and instead filled me with a cold, nauseating sense of foreboding. The dread of sitting trapped in a room with people who don’t like each other, who are all wondering (as you are) why you are all there reenacting the same ritual boredom in the same atmosphere of agonising tension, buying presents that you don’t want to give for equally ungrateful recipients year after year. It is no wonder that most everyone hates Crismas.
I only realised that Crismas is in fact one of the only things I really truly love when I decided to let go of those drudgerous Crismas obligations and instead only indulge my own desire to cover every surface of my house with shining sparkling colour and practice the traditions that I remember loving as a child, who would sit for hours staring up at the tree entranced by the blinding fairy lights and glitter of tinsel; who would get so excited that on Crismas morning I would vomit in anticipation over my unopened presents.
By October, my collection of newly acquired decorations is beginning to grow, and it is time to make mincemeat and the Crismas cake, giving it time for its flavours to fully develop and to be fed every few days with brandy. By the end of November it’s about time to book the candlelight tour of Dennis Severs’ House, and planning my gift wrapping scheme, choosing what the of paper and colour ribbon it will be this year, by which time I will have usually popped into Fortnum and Mason’s so many times to visit their Crismas shop and pick up some necessity – like musical biscuit tins, or glacé fruit to fill the advent calendar – that by December 24 I feel it is my second homeland. It’s probably the most comforting and reassuring place in the world: you are free, for just a moment, from the burden of reality.