AA batteries have stolen the spirit of Christmas

Batteries are included
Batteries are included

The hunt for batteries on Christmas morning has contributed to the end of the spirit we all loved as kids

ALL TOO often nowadays we hear how our ever-changing — and increasingly skeptical — society has lost the spirit of Christmas and Easter.

Easter has just rolled by for another year and that question popped up again last Sunday night after another bottle of red was uncorked during a pretty entertaining dinner party.

“Why doesn’t anyone get into the Christmas spirit any more, or Easter?” she asked.

The question was probably more rhetorical than inquisitive but, what the heck, I felt compelled to answer it anyway.

Batteries have stolen Christmas,” I said. The looks around the dinner table were blank, no … more bemused — probably similar to yours right about now. But nonetheless it’s true. In fact, batteries have changed the way all public holidays are now celebrated.

It wasn’t too long ago that my ol’ man would cart me around the place on Christmas morning to look at what all the other kids had scored from Santa. My early memories of those 6am drives mainly included pushbikes — for both the boys and girls — the good ol’ fashioned Tonka, a footy or two, some “bored” games and some spiffy dress-up dolls.

Kids were out on the streets showing off their new toys — teasing the less fortunate, whose parents could only afford a couple of Matchbox cars or a box of Red Heads for the girls. Note for later reference: No shops were open during this adventure with my dad. Nada. Let’s face it big kids, the spirit of Christmas is for the little kids — the older you get the more Chrissie spirit comes in a bottle and the cheer is more of a “cheers”. But that’s a different story.

Back to the point. Take that same 6am drive today and I guarantee less kids, less bikes and more than likely, less teasing. More PSPs, GameBoys, portable DVDs, remote control cars — and the ultimate irony, a portable battery charger. So, the three words which changed the course of modern history are of course: “Batteries not included”.

PacMan

I remember receiving this for Christmas in 1980ish. Was it the beginning of the end?

These may seem to be just three innocent words — frustrating ones I agree — but they are spirit shattering. How many shops were open on Christmas Day when there were no toys that needed batteries? Mum and dads worldwide didn’t need batteries for the pushie, the wooden car or the metal Tonka. But that remote control car, PacMan console (if you can remember the yellow brick about 1980, I had one of those), the talking “change-me baby” all needed battery power.

Those inexperienced electronic parents thought they were doing the right thing buying their kids the coolest new toys but they were undone on Christmas morning, giving their lovable youngsters great toys they couldn’t play with — until tomorrow when the shops opened again. So what happened? Shops needed to be open on Christmas Day so mum and dad could stop Jack and Julie from howling all bloody morning.

First, it was just a couple of hours, just for the batteries. Then mum and dad realised they could pick up a few odds and ends they’d forgotten for the 18-course feed they’d knocked up for 25 rellies and a couple of scruffy neighbours. Then people wanted the shops to stay open a little longer because it was more convenient. The only people that would work those shifts were youngsters because it was “triple time”.

Now those youngsters have kids and remember working on Christmas Day and think nothing more of it. The spirit erosion became — and remains — unstoppable. If the shops were open on Christmas day — of all days — then Easter, Anzac Day, Australia Day, Monday, Tuesday .. all became good days as well. The only way to bring back the spirit of Christmas — and Easter — is for us to stand up and say “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges” … doh … I mean “batteries”.

I still remain a steadfast advocate of Tonka trucks, wooden blocks and plastic army men that perished in air-rifle combat on Christmas morning.

*This was first published in The Northern Territory News last decade. I think it’s relevant.

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