Welcome to our very merry, end-of-year series, Crackers!
We asked eight of our favourite writers to tell us about the best gift that 2015 gave them/the world, and we’ll be posting their responses all the way through to New Year’s Eve. We kick off today with Sian Campbell’s Eggnog Mix 2015.
2015 was a weird, shitty year. It took a lot away from us – things and people and feelings we’ll never get back. Maybe we can say that of any year. The only difference is whether or not we personally got caught in the crossfire. This year, I did. But 2015 gave us a lot, too, didn’t it? Remember when Taylor dropped the ‘Bad Blood’ video and you watched it and realised Mariska Hargitay was in it? Oh, man! Patti Smith’s M Train came out. Miranda July’s The First Bad Man came out. Sleater-Kinney released a new album after an eight-year hiatus. The Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage one hundred per cent legal all over America. Sam Frost found love in The Bachelorette, apparently. These are all very nice gifts to have bestowed unto us. Thanks, 2015.
PULL QUOTE: The best gift I can give 2015 is the same one I give every year: my annual Christmas mix.
I don’t know what the best gift 2015 gave me was. I do know I laughed, and danced, and felt buoyed and inspired by others, and ate really good food. What have I given 2015 in return? I thought more about my place in the world and what good I can do with my time here, and I tried to be a better person even if I didn’t always or usually do a very good job. I tried to remember to change my undies more often and I baked a lot of peanut butter cookies. I adopted a rescue puppy. I wrote a lot. Really though, the best gift I can give 2015 is the same one I give every year: my annual Christmas mix. It’s a gift that maybe isn’t anyone’s favourite gift to receive but grows on you with time. Like: do you love the socks your Auntie Marie gives you every year? No, but when you run out of socks you’re not unhappy about having been given them.
The thing about Christmas music is that everyone hates it, but maybe they just don’t understand it. They think: malls. They think: Bing Crosby and stale, metallic covers by artists nobody has heard of, and that one fucking CD your Mum bought from Myer thirteen years ago for charity. But Christmas music can be so much more than that.
Christmas is probably the closest to understanding religion as I’ll ever get. A bunch of butts crammed into church pews, lights at night, songs sung in unison, joy, joy, joy to the world, or at least some joy to some of the world. I might not pray, or believe, but when people light candles and sing songs together with love in their hearts… that’s a type of prayer, and it’s one I can get behind. I know it’s indoctrination at work, and maybe it makes me a hypocrite, or easily manipulated. I don’t have to understand why a bunch of people in the scorching Australian heat celebrate a winter festival, and I don’t have to understand why ‘O Holy Night’ moves me, do I?
I like Christmas because I like to pretend-believe in a world where people want to be nice to each other, and families like spending time together, and songs and food and wine enjoyed communally can be healing. I know it’s make-believe, but it’s better than not believing at all. So I make mix CDs because it’s fun and festive and a way to be a part of the make-believe world that I want to live in.
PULL QUOTE: When it comes to making the perfect Christmas mix, my philosophy is the trashier and more bewildering the better.
My favourite Christmas songs are the ones that surprise you and change your mind about what Christmas music can be. Take Billy Joel and Paul Simon’s croon-y version of ‘Silver Bells’, throughout which Steve Martin performs satirical festive stand-up, or Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ version of ‘Silent Night’, interspersed with audio from Barack Obama’s inauguration speech. Who sat down and decided these songs should be written? But someone did, and for that I am thankful. When it comes to making the perfect Christmas mix, my philosophy is the trashier and more bewildering the better.
So, please enjoy my grab-bag of Christmas tracks. The best (and/or worst, depending on where you’re standing) songs from the six years I’ve been making these mix CDs and forcing them on my friends, plus also some new tracks. I recommend listening to this playlist when you’re getting stoned in the backyard with your not-awful cousins on Christmas Day, or wrapping presents alone and wondering where it all went so damn wrong.
Sian Campbell is editor-in-chief of Scum Mag. Her work has been included in Kill Your Darlings, Spook and Junkee. She was longlisted for the 2015 Lifted Brow Prize for Experimental Non-Fiction.