Christmas Jeer: The Bah Humbug Club

In a tiny little seaside corner of England there is a Christmas revolution of sorts brewing. The conspirators are on the mature side, endearingly grumpy, and share a love of cold beer and friendship. They are the founding members of the Bah Humbug club in Walton-on-the-Naze, England.

Chief Humbug Jim Berry, who sports a black Santa hat with the words "100% Christmas Grump" on the brim, defines a humbug as "a person who doesn't like the fact that the festive season celebrations start far too early, about September."

Up in arms, or at least off their bar stools, because Christmas seems to get more commercial every year, these initial members have bonded together in a spirit of non-Christmas.

Club rules are simple: don't utter the word Christmas -- they call it the "festive season"; no partridge, no pear tree, no Christmas carols; and when greeting fellow members it must be with a hearty "Bah Humbug." Failure to follow these rules is a 20 pence fine (about 25 cents) with all proceeds going to charity, this year the local cancer hospital for children. Despite the bad economy, they've raised more money than ever before, more than $1,000 so far. They are Christmas Grinches with hearts of gold.

Despite the average age of club members appearing to be about 60, the genesis of the club came from the 20-year-old bartender and son of the owner of Bah Humbug HQ, Victory pub right off Walton's main street.

Three years ago, fed up with hearing regular patrons complain about the commercialization of Christmas, he printed membership cards, scribbled their names on the wall and created a bah humbug corner of the bar. The bah humbug corner is more of a shrine above the fireplace. This year about 70 members, the most yet, have signed their names to a poster board. Though the club is mostly men there are a couple of women on the list, wives of some of the more active members.

There are also international members for the first time. It's not altogether clear if some of those international members know their name has been added. Members present say they have every intention of letting their friends from abroad know of their membership in the club.

What started out as a silly and fun pastime is now a growth industry. Club members think part of the reason that it's caught on is that the Victory pub, which is taking pre-orders for a traditional English Christmas day meal, has put reindeer on the menu along with turkey and ham.

Members are already plotting next year. A musically inclined supporter from Birmingham who heard about the club wrote a song that he hopes will serve as the bah humbug theme. And the club is considering its own line of Christmas -- rather bah humbug -- cards to raise even more money.

It is a move that would warm the cockles of Ebenezer Scrooge's heart. Raising money by capitalizing on a protest over the commercialization of Christmas. This festive season, anything goes.

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