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How Nick Cave celebrates Christmas

Celebrating Christmas in an increasingly secular world raises all manner of complications. Yesterday, I went to do some gift shopping in a well-known department store here in London. Inside, hordes of wild-eyed shoppers clutched their flimsy baskets as they charged towards the luxury condiments section and, occasionally, lashed out if somebody happened to get between them and the last bottle of Chanel No.5. Outside, street-side preachers raised their voices above the clamour of wailing children and stampeding feet, declaring the modern world a hotbed of corruption and gluttony. In the eyes of such preachers, Christmas itself has been reduced to little more than an excuse to eat in excess and exchange lavish gifts. Christ, they would argue, has nothing to do with our modern Christmas. But, for Nick Cave, Christmas is still a time to delve into the spiritual and the divine.

As the Bad Seeds frontman explained in a post made to his website: “Christmas to me is the remnant of an evaporating culture to which I once belonged. I am not a Christian, yet I am attached to its culture, personally, nostalgically and sentimentally.”

Th singer adds: “It is not the only culture available, there are others, equally valid or invalid, both religious and secular. But, for me, as someone who grew up in an Anglican home, sang in the cathedral choir, and has an enduring fascination with the Christian scriptures, the Christian story, in all its quaintness and implausibility, holds great meaning.”

For Cave, Christmas is an essentially nostalgic holiday. In involving himself with the religious practices that once defined his childhood, he seems to search for a well of spiritual and creative nourishment. “Christ continues to move through my imagination,” he continued, “A vaporous ghost beckoning from the shadows, and his story affects me deeply. Jesus is an absurdity that rises eerily from my yearning for spiritual comfort, within a cosmos I cannot begin to understand.”

Clearly, Christian iconography and scriptures continue to weave their way through Nick Cave’s mind. As a result, he seems to regard Christmas as a period of reflection, a moment in the calendar year when we are given the opportunity to slow down and consider our place within the world, and in his case, the universe. “Christ is a symbol of our imperfect and limited attempt at understanding eternity, and addresses the vulnerability of humanity itself,” he said. “Perhaps we should not look at the Christian story as a symbol of our naivety or ignorance, but instead cherish it as our attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible.”

Cave’s words highlight how important this mid-winter festival is. Not only does it allow us to reconnect with the ones we love, but it also allows us a moment to reconnect with our inner selves. Perhaps that’s why, this Christmas, as Christianity “retreats” back into the churches and cathedrals… and Christmas becomes the sole province of a roly-poly man in a Coca-Cola red suit,” Nick Cave will be returning to the church of his childhood to “kneel before the fading vestiges of an outmoded idea called spiritual transcendence”.

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