Bah Humbug… It’s Not Like It Used to Be!

Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused — in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened — by the recurrence of Christmas. There are people who will tell you that Christmas is not to them what it used to be — that each succeeding Christmas has found some cherished hope or happy prospect of the year before, dimmed or passed away — and that the present only serves to remind them of reduced circumstances and straightened incomes — of the feasts they once bestowed on hollow friends, and of the cold looks that meet them now, in adversity and misfortune. Never heed such dismal reminiscences. There are few men who have lived long enough in the world who cannot call up such thoughts any day in the year.’

Charles Dickens, Christmas Festivities

It’s Christmas Eve…and it wouldn’t be a festive season without a bit of Charles Dickens thrown in.

Like many, I grew up with Christmas heat, but celebrated as if in winter. Some of my earliest memories of Christmas are at my Grandparents house on Christmas Day, with my Grandma sweating and swearing in the kitchen around the hot oven, roasting meats and deserts.

We would head over to their house in the morning, after opening our presents at home. My Grandpa would be out the back, setting up the trestle tables and tapping the keg.

I don’t remember food or mulled wine being on the trestle table. I only remember seeing if full of middy glasses. Some were clean and neatly stacked, waiting to be filled. Others were scattered, lined with froth and signalling a hastily drunk beer. Christmas mornings are thirsty work.

My Grandparents were a social bunch. They put on a few kegs on Christmas Day knowing that all their friends would drop in at some point and have a couple beers. I hung around because the beer pouring took place down the back near a nectarine tree and passionfruit vine. I used to eat all the fruit I could…especially passionfruit.

I don’t recall anyone being drunk though. And of course everyone drove.

But back in those days (late 70s) there was no such thing as drink driving. Well, there was, but it wasn’t very well policed. Apparently, if you were more than five kilometres away from home, you could drive under the influence. The rationale was that you HAD to get home.

So my Grandparents and their friends would drive down the coast somewhere and have a picnic, with plenty of beers thrown in for good measure. As a result, they had a day out AND didn’t have to worry about being busted for drink driving.

Scandalous behaviour I know. But it was the done thing back then.

Having a few kegs in your backyard on Christmas Day probably wasn’t the done thing back in the 70s, but it was achievable. My Grandparents weren’t particularly affluent, but they managed to entertain well.

You could do that in the 70s. Wages were good back then and beers didn’t come with crippling taxes embedded in the cost. And land wasn’t a financial asset and a plaything of the middle class. It was affordable.

But things change. And the world tends to look rosier when looking in the rear view mirror. Especially when you’re a kid eating passionfruit and watching adults do the same, in their own way.

No, I’m not complaining about the way things are these days. Dickens wouldn’t approve of that. Whatever your means, Christmas should be fun.

Christmas rituals may change over the decades, but some things stay the same. Like making a feast fit for the middle of winter on a hot summer’s day.

With Melbourne set for 33 degree temps on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I’m cooking turkey in the oven on one day and Italian herbed rolled pork on the BBQ on the other. It will be hot, but some beers will offer respite.

Speaking of traditions, the whole thing about Christmas being celebrated on 25 December is a little murky.

According to the internet (so it must be right) Christmas was first celebrated on 25 December in 336, during Roman Emperor Constantine’s reign. But Constantine moved the seat of the Roman Empire to Byzantium (or Constantinople, or now, Istanbul) in 330, so perhaps the first Christmas celebrations took place in modern day Istanbul?

Why 25 December? Some say it’s because 25 March was the day someone told Mary (Jesus’ Mum) that she would have a very ‘special’ baby. Add nine months and…

There’s also the idea that Christmas took over the Roman festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun). In the northern hemisphere, 25 December is just days after the winter solstice. Hence the celebration to welcome increasing sunlight.

And there is a nice symmetry between sun and the Son. Personally, I think the pagans were on the money. You can’t live without the sun. But you could still get by (albeit in a heathen and depraved state) without the Son.

But I’ll be honest. I don’t care. Christmas is about friends and family, giving and forgiving. Dickens was bang on the money when he first wrote about Christmas in the 1840s…and he’s bang on the money now.

Have a great Christmas, dear reader. Thanks for putting up with us all year. We’ll be back with more outrage, ignorance and, if you’re lucky, insight, in 2016.

Stay safe, and best wishes…from all of us here at the Markets and Money.

Regards,

Greg Canavan,

For Markets and Money

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Greg Canavan is a Contributing Editor at Markets & Money and Head of Research at Port Phillip Publishing. He advocates a counter-intuitive investment philosophy based on the old adage that ‘ignorance is bliss’. Greg says that investing in the ‘Information Age’ means you now have all the information you need. But is it really useful? Much of it is noise, and serves to confuse rather than inform investors. And, through the process of confirmation bias, you tend to sift the information that you agree with. As a result, you reinforce your biases. This gives you the impression that you know what is going on. But really, you don’t know. No one does. The world is far too complex to understand. When you accept this, your newfound ignorance becomes a formidable investment weapon. That’s because you’re not a slave to your emotions and biases. Greg puts this philosophy into action as the Editor of Crisis & Opportunity. He sees opportunities in crises. To find the opportunities, he uses a process called the ‘Fusion Method’, which combines charting analysis with more conventional valuation analysis. Charting is important because it contains no opinions or emotions. Combine that with traditional stock analysis, and you have a robust stock selection strategy. With Greg’s help, you can implement a long-term wealth-building strategy into your financial planning, be better prepared for the financial challenges ahead, and stop making the same mistakes that most private investors do every time they buy a stock. To find out more about Greg’s investing style and his financial worldview, take out a free subscription to Markets & Money here. And to discover more about Greg’s ‘ignorance is bliss’ investment strategy and the Fusion Method of investing, take out a 30-day trial to his value investing service Crisis & Opportunity here. Official websites and financial e-letters Greg writes for:

 


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