I love Christmas.
I need to make that clear, because I am about to embark on a little tirade about the Silly Season and I don't want anyone to think that I am coming over all Bah Humbug.
But, seriously, we as a society have completely lost touch with what this festivity is all about. I'm staying away from the religious side of Christmas here on my blog, and want to talk instead about what most people refer to as "the spirit of Christmas".
Apparently, having some Christmas spirit means talking endlessly about what major, plastic and mass-produced toy is on sale and where. It means trawling the shops, standing at checkout lines for ages, battling the crowds of thousands of other people who have the same idea about "the Christmas Spirit". It means racking up some serious credit card debt, or at least experiencing some financial pressure due to spending on presents, food, decorations, drink, a gift for Aunty Mavis' estranged husband.... the list goes on.
Apparently, every child needs at least fifteen presents with their name on them under the tree, otherwise we may as well pack the dear child up and send them to the poorhouse now. Apparently we need to fill up two regular sized shopping trolleys with every kind of 'sometimes' food under the sun, because we wouldn't want to go hungry on Christmas Day, would we?
The average Australian (singular, not per family) is forecast to spend $1600 towards Christmas this year. That's nearly DOUBLE the average household's (not single person) weekly disposable (after tax) income. Credit card debt peaks in the first quarter after Christmas each year, sitting earlier this year at an average of $4700 per Australian card-holder.
Does this not seem a little ridiculous?
And that's just the money side of things. We can also look at our Christmas over-consumerism in terms of the world's people, our local communities and the environment as a whole.
From The Buy Nothing Day website:
What is so bad about shopping?
It’s not shopping in itself that’s so harmful, it’s what we buy. The rich western countries - only 20% of the world population are consuming over 80% of the earth’s natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth. As consumers, we should question the products we buy and the companies who produce them.
The idea is to make people stop and think about what and how much they buy effects the environment and developing countries. Increasingly large companies use labour in developing countries to produce goods because its cheap and there aren’t the systems to protect workers like there are in the west.
We can't shop our way to a better world. Every purchase we make has an impact (even the eco, fairtrade, sustainable ones). Every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in.
Another aspect to consider (at any time of the year, not just Christmas!) is that in our own communities there are people who are doing it tough. As Christmas is a time of joy, celebration, family, friends and food, people who are marginalised, financially struggling, separated from family, lonely, suffering from mental health issues or in other ways not able to celebrate Christmas the way they may like to can find this time of the year particularly hard. If you think there are no people like this in your community, you aren't looking hard enough. Does your community have a hospital? A mental health department? A women's refuge? A drug and alcohol agency? Centrelink? Employment agencies? My community has all of these, and I am in no way saying that everyone who accesses these services is not going to have a merry Christmas. I am merely saying that these services exist to support people who need support, so if your community has one or all of these services, you are likely to have people who are doing it tough living nearby.
This all sounds pretty bleak, I know. But I believe those who have more, have a responsibility to those who have less. My family is looking forward to a festive, funfilled, feasty Christmas. We just have plans to do it in a way that respects the Earth and its people, that spreads some true Christmas cheer around our community, and that teaches our children to want to make a difference.
Tomorrow, I'm sharing how our family will be doing Christmas this year (with not a shop in sight!) So stay tuned, for some real Christmas cheer :)