“There are two worlds, the one in which people are convinced they live, and the one that is considerably more dramatic, the one that is real”

Monday, December 21, 2015


Christmas is upon me, three days to go!
I usually hit the department stores as early as the 28th of December for sports shoes and items clothing particularly as there isn’t that much in my comfortable size. By the 3rd of Jan the computer specials have gone back to normal price and have reduced a little more – there are some reasonably priced items I need available. If not, stuff it.

I stopped giving presents years ago when I saw the forced smiles and the filling cupboards. Instead I moved to giving each child an envelope with a description of what I would be giving them for Christmas. That left it open for negotiation and they’d have a shrewd idea of my budget – at sales prices of course because that’s now the normal accounting way in our household. We don’t allow ourselves to be ripped off anymore, after having been ripped off for years.

Because I have no guilt in opting out of supporting some retailers holiday overseas or his HSBC haven by buying pre-Christmas ‘reduced by 20%’, stuff.
‘Dad, look the sign says …’
‘Darling look 20% reduction …’
But we know now it is 20% off a vastly higher profit expectations. Credit card companies are big winners …[1]

Forgetting the Christianity mumbo-jumbo, in the northern hemisphere the Winter Solstice was the time humans looked forward to spring and the renewal it brings, a time for celebration and drawing together, for thanking the earth for its bounty. Today, in competition with Ramadan, Christmas[2] is the most expensive waste producing, relationship damaging, health destroying, and environmentally degrading time of the year.

It’s a holiday for the better off only (they can afford it), but such is the hype to spend and be merry that all too many are hit with catastrophe. It’s in March/April that the credit card bill will arrive. Essentials like the house loan, school fees, insurances, car servicing, colon cancer checks, the planned move to eating better, get delayed. Family stress levels hit the roof,[3] gastric illness is normal and alcohol induced listlessness destroys the gift of family get togethers. The waste of wrapping paper alone, never mind puked up brandy and cheaply produced expensively sold broken toys, puts a smear on something that once was beautiful.

Last year I spent Christmas in Australia. My daughter’s planning was brilliant. Presents were a simple acknowledgement and what was left over was designed to minimize cooking for the rest of their off-days. The day after Boxing Day I wandered about their Middle Class suburb looking in dustbins. My realisation: if every fourth neighbour swapped bins (so none too close) there would be food (different so you’d feel you had been out) for a week and an interesting enough find of discarded presents (and other stuff) to entertain all for another afternoon. Pity it was all mashed up with the real rubbish.

Christmas was always for those who could afford it, paid for by those who can’t.  It’s time to do it differently.

How about hand-made gifts – make dad a mud pudding, mom some flowers from the garden - or at least something purchased from a local business? How about just a hand-drawn card for the adults and something simple (perhaps one gift only) for the kids? How about pulling back a bit, focusing on the connection and love between us rather than the need to make sure our kids have as much as their school mates, who may seem well off but are actually struggling under their own debt?

How about smiles, hugs, a family getting together after the year’s work in a refashioned Christmas that is a celebration of each living other rather than growing the pile of plastic floating in the ocean, and the stream of cash flowing to unscrupulous global corporations?

Merry Christmas.

[1] http://fixmydebt.ca/blog.php?CHRISTMAS-SHOPPING-CHRISTMAS-DEBT
[2] ‘It's time to cut the obscene amount of Christmas food waste ...’ theguardian.com back in 2012. ‘Up to 270,000 tonnes of food go to waste during Ramadan ...’ says thestar.com.my … in Malaysia alone!
[3] ‘Christmas is up there with divorce, moving house and changing jobs as the sixth most stressful life event.’ See prnewswire.co.uk