In 2012 the last year that figures were produced by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme, Americans spent 563 billion dollars in the run up to Christmas. Great for the economy, or is it? Or does it add further private debt to the millions who overspend and go into debt for what we think Christmas should be about. If we could only think differently the Global water crisis could be wiped out with a contribution of just 5% or 20 billion dollars of that enormous spend. We would make Christmas happen every day for those impoverished by the lack of water in the world, just by that reduction which would not be felt by the consumers. Why is that not done for the betterment of humanity?
The advertising that generally starts at the end of October by all the big stores convincing people that they must buy the latest gadget for Christmas is where all the panic buying starts. So much stuff is bought that is wasted or easily broken, gifts received that are not wanted, useful or even liked and that are all driven by consumerism that add to the mad buying spree that is the “Christmas shopping”. The added burden and cost of getting rid of the packaging that swell our recycling efforts is often mindboggling. When you think that 75 million euro worth of wrapping paper alone that has to be disposed of immediately Christmas Day is over makes you wonder. Along with all the other junk that ends up broken or cannot be put together in the first instance, has the time not come to change?
On top of all of that, the overstretched credit cards, loans from Credit Unions, Banks, moneylenders, etc. which bring added stresses to so many people, would it not be a lot wiser if people spent Christmas as it was meant to be, with family, friends and neighbours or visit the sick, alone or lonely? With all the shopping for food, drink, the added wants, and in trying to get everything done I wonder is it worth all the stress in a household. Statistics show that domestic violence escalates at Christmas time. This is unnecessary stress that need not be endured if we thought about Christmas differently and get rid of the juggling act, to try and stay calm in the light of such needless added burdens.
Every year we are herded into this frenzy of buying, we think that that is what is expected. If everyone just stopped and looked at the real meaning of Christmas, Christmastime could become enjoyable, relaxed and stress free to enjoy with family and friends. Is all this stress which for some is overpowering really necessary or could we make a decision to act in a different way and become more aware of what really matters when the vast majority are on holidays and have time to spend with loved ones. I know the economy is dependent on people spending, the more the merrier, but how do you square that with finances which are scarce and precarious for many and often borrowed at great expense. The added stress of facing into January to repay borrowed money which will again cause anxiety, stress and worry is surely not to be promoted especially when it is for no good reason. Overspending is a feature of Christmas and should be actively discouraged.
I am not against Christmas and people enjoying that extra nice dinner, a more expensive bottle of wine, buying something that will be enjoyed and be grateful for, or buying something special that has a meaning, what I am against is the spend, spend, spend that leave so much misery in its wake. What about bringing back the magic of Christmas with songs and carols and music to lift the spirit and that will resonate in the brain and bring immense pleasure? What about upping the sense of community spirit? What about allowing people to feel your care and concern? What about calling or inviting your neighbour for a chat or for a cuppa? What about adapting a sense of warmth and inclusion to someone who is alone? What about renewing an old friendship that has gone cold? All of these mean much more than a gift which has little use or is even wanted when the pay back has to be found.
It is up to all of us to restore the true meaning of Christmas and take the pressure and stress out of a season of goodwill and make it meaningful and memorable. We could all celebrate the precious people in our lives at this special time that comes just once every year and enjoy the season of memories and family and those whose paths we cross. How do we know if we will be around to celebrate another. We don’t. What if the United States did give the 5% that could be easily saved to allow every human access to clean water and eliminate typhoid and all the other diseases associated with lack of clean water, wouldn’t that be a great miracle to happen at Christmas.