Very much bowing to commercial pressure, it is nowadays quite normal for Christmas cheer to leak into September, having already flooded October and practically drowned November. Being rather averse to such trends, when, during last year’s surprise October heat wave, representatives of the premature Christmas tat pushing trade appeared on regional news bemoaning wilting business, I felt rather unsympathetic. At first glance, the celebration of ‘Oxmas’ might appear to be as much an aspect of this cult of the spiritually dead, twisted and deeply unwelcome pre-Christmas as any sun bleached Santa hat festering in a garden centre last October. But to lump Oxmas in with commercially driven pre-Christmas is to ignore the fact that it stems from a much more wholesome place, from what I shall rather snappily term ‘the Christmas build up mind-set’.
When the nights begin to noticeably draw in, when the academic year begins and millions of students, whether at school, college or university return to their studies, so also begins the build-up to Christmas. With temperatures dropping and days shortening there is little else to look forward to save for the ephemeral excitement offered by Halloween or Bonfire night, and the progression toward midwinter festivities becomes something of a mind-set. The particular form which this mindset takes is very subjective, and therefore very difficult to describe accurately, but for me, it’s got something to do with putting a winter coat back on, feeling cosier indoors, and most importantly, the beginning of a new series of Merlin. There is a clear difference between a subtle ‘Christmas build-up mind-set’ and shameless, overt Christmasiness; the fact that the latter has in recent years begun to invade the realm of the former is, I think, partially due to a lack of recognition that such a difference exists. It is also the subtle ‘Christmas build up mind-set’ that necessitates Oxmas.
The fact that Michaelmas term finishes a good fortnight short of the culmination of all this Christmassy build up means that, without Oxmas, we would have no opportunity to share a bit of Christmasiness with friends (or acquaintances) before heading home for the winter break. In most other contexts, such as at other universities where term might end a fortnight later, a standard, albeit slightly premature Christmas celebration is legitimised by the month of December. Given nowhere else to go, Oxmas squats awkwardly at the end of November, thinly veiling its Christmasiness with a very poor disguise. It has dissented out of necessity, adopting the heretical view that Christmas may be celebrated outside the confines of December, thereby abandoning the key fundament of mainstream Christmas.
Yet Oxmas dissents because it feels that December-centrists place an unnecessary medium between the individual Oxford student and the spirit of Christmas. It exists not as a facet of the arbitrary, commercially driven forcing back of Christmas from December into innocent, preceding months, but as a separate movement, hoping to make the Christmas spirit available to those unable out of necessity to conform to traditional, Christmas habits.