First published in The Guardian online, 25 December 2013.
Considering the mini furore in some social media outlets over my rejected crucifixion cartoon, it now bewilders me that I was much more worried about the potential reaction to this Christmas Day cartoon. Worried to the point where, of my own accord, I submitted a watered down version. I was told to relax, chill out, it’s great, have some mulled wine (great advice, by the way). In any case it’s probably unwise to try putting yourself in the mindset of someone else when you’re creating humour. There is always an angle you can find where someone will take offence.
After thinking up this cartoon it dawned on me that I didn’t have a proper understanding of Boxing Day. Is it even a real thing in the Christian calendar? Luckily for me the internet has been invented. So I used it instead of asking the opinion of real people I know because it’s extremely likely that they’re as vague as I am but are too proud to admit it. I would certainly not treat their word as Gospel. In fact, the only people whose word I would are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and perhaps Craig but he rarely answers his phone so you always have to leave a message. Then you have to wait for him to deign to call you back. Well fuck you Craig. Anyway, Wikipedia tells me that…
Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses or employers. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December. It is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and other Commonwealth nations.
So Boxing Day, to my surprise, is far from universal. In even fewer countries is it known for shopping. Wikipedia again:
In Britain, Canada, and some states of Australia, Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much like Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) in the US…For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest amount of returns.
All this means that my cartoon is understood by even less people than usual.
The painting I have made reference to is an “Adoration of the Shepherds” by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. Normally Spanish painters are very dark and morbid, especially in that period, but Murillo, though talented, is as saccharine as a Spielberg ending. Just check out his self-portrait.