My 3 year old is very excited about Christmas. She has been ever since the Christmas decorations appeared in the shops. In October. Frankly, the shops seem to have been a little slow this year.
Everywhere we go, she sees Christmas decorations and says “Look! They’re ready for Christmas! Child care is ready for Christmas too! We made a Christmas tree! We made Christmas decorations! I’m ready for Christmas!” And every time I mutter, scrooge-like, into the hands clamped despairingly over my face: “I’m not. I am SO not ready.”
In my family, arrangements for Christmas day tend to be made late-ish – sometime around August. The call, or these days the email, comes out: “We’re hosting Christmas this year, we’ve got this, this and that organised. Let me know what you’d like to contribute.” And every year, slow learner that I am, I am shocked and appalled. “Christmas??? I’m not ready to think about Christmas! I’m still wrestling today into submission!”
Every year I am tempted to do a runner and flee to a different country for Christmas. It’s not that I dislike the season, (although my formative employment years in a department store have rather soured Christmas carols for me) it’s the rampant commercialism that simultaneously chills and boils my blood.
Buy something for him. For her. For them. Prove your love with fistfuls of ill-spent dollars, flung into the hands of companies that then trickle a penny or two down into the lap of the people who actually make the stuff. The brittle, plastic, worthless stuff.
I hate to do this to you – it’s a very Greens, hippy, antisocial thing to do – but what are we teaching our kids? That stuff is important? That buying things for people that they don’t need, may not even want, but cost the right amount of money shows your love for them? Many of us base our choice of gift for relatives on the likely value of gifts they will give us. There has to be a rough value match or terrible crises will ensue. Gifts bought from Op Shops would be catastrophic in this context (if anyone ever found out).
I rant and rave about all this, but I still do it, of course. I still fret over buying things for the important people in my life, because I do want them to feel valued. I do love to give someone the perfect gift. I just wish I didn’t have to find 20, 30, 40 perfect gifts all at once. Christmas decorations and ads everywhere urge us to buy stuff, stuff, and more stuff. Is that the Christmas spirit?
Not all decorations are bad, of course. The Christmas tree in my daughter’s childcare is, I must admit, magnificent. Handmade, covered in the children’s green handprints, packed with stuffing by their own eager little hands, it is a testament to all the positives of Christmas (for those of us who are not Christian, at least). They worked together. They packed it with love (and polyester stuffing). It makes them so happy, and so proud. Half a dozen kids point it out to me and drag me over to it every time I go into the room. That’s the Christmas spirit.
So here is my challenge to you. Buy Fair Trade (The Oxfam shop is a good start) or second hand, where you must buy at all. Or make things. Make this Christmas about saving the planet. About empowering people. And about hugging the people that you love. It won’t be brilliant for the economy, but as David Suzuki said, “Economists and cancer cells think they can grow forever.” We need a new economy, based on the things that are really important. Let’s make Christmas more about the people we love, and less about how much we spend on them.