Christmas time is a holiday period of family fun, wonderful festivities and inevitable consumerist indulgence. Now, I don’t pretend to be some kind of philosophical guru who is somehow exempt from the grasp of capitalism – of course I idolise owning fast expensive cars and yes my heartbeat increases dramatically when I win a tenner on a scratch card.
However, I do sometimes wonder whether or not as a society we have lost sight of the true value and general meaning of Christmas. And I’m not talking about praising Jesus and watching your 5-year-old nephew’s primary school nativity play (I was Herod in mine, I don’t think the teacher in charge of casting thought I was a very good boy). Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great if you believe Christmas is a time of religious reflection, and in some manner I think it should be. But in reality that’s not what Christmas seems to generally be about in our modern world.
I don’t want to seem like a bit of Grinch, but from what I’ve experienced in the western world the taste of Christmas seems particularly bittersweet. When I was a child I used to wake up on Christmas morning absolutely buzzing to see what Santa had got me and I loved ripping through the wrapping paper to collect my loot like all the kids fortunate enough to get presents do.
Apart from the fact I find it somewhat bizarre that most families keep the whole Santa thing going for such a long time (I mean, why can’t kids just be allowed to appreciate their parents’ generosity past a very young age?), I do find it a little bit sad that we teach children that material gain is the central part of Christmas day.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to get and enjoy gifts on Christmas – that would just suck. But I do think our society takes it a little bit too far. I know people who work so hard every day to earn a relatively small amount of money but will splash hundreds and hundreds at Christmas time like it’s some sort of obligation.
I know for sure if I had a girlfriend/boyfriend or children of my own I would feel extremely guilty if I didn’t spend a decent amount of money on presents for them, and I don’t really know why. Why can’t a nice family walk and a pleasant communal Christmas dinner suffice? Since when has a religious holiday that was originally based on community spirit and, by nature, self-sacrifice and helping others turned into who can pump the most money into the evil present selling corporations pocket and post the flashiest picture of their pile of presents on Instagram competition?
It does kind of sicken me to see how effectively big companies are able to piggy back off this religious holiday (similarly to Halloween and Easter) and squeeze the general public for a handsome fat cat profit. What I find even worse is how blindly our society seems to support this.
I love Christmas time and spending it with my family. I also like getting cool/useful presents from my family. But wouldn’t it be better, in the interest of the whole ‘giving’ theme, to maybe teach people from a young age that Christmas is a day you donate money/gifts to a charitable organisation or the less fortunate (as well as receiving gifts yourself, if that makes it easier to swallow).
The only present my parents ever got me which I clearly remember from my childhood to this day and stuck with me is when they bought me a sponsor of a guide dog for a blind person. I even used to get little updates in the post of how his training was getting along, cute.
This Christmas I hope everyone can enjoy their time spent with loved ones (if you’re lucky enough to be with them) and also enjoy giving and receiving presents. However, I also hope everyone can have a think about what Christmas really should/does mean to them and maybe consider whether their ideals and values are in the right place in this joyous time of year. Happy Holidays.
words by Gus Twidale