This post originated from a place of fear. I am not alone. I was saddened to discover that this fear is shared by millions. Somewhere along the way, we as a society lost the meaning of Christmas and replaced it with a fear of inadequacy. I look at all the presents I’ve bought and it never seems like enough. I anticipate that my friends, colleagues and family will be buying and distributing stuff. And I must reciprocate. So, I measure, tally, compare and guess; I can’t let it appear that I didn’t try hard enough. I don’t really want to take part, but I’ve been swept up in this toxic cycle of consumerism and feel compelled to play Christmas pressie ‘keepy uppy’. Christmas has degenerated into a festive binge of waste and over-indulgence with our permission.
The Archbishop of Canterbury got it right when he spoke to Martin Lewis on ITV, discussing how “secular over-the-topness” is crippling people with debt, tearing families apart and damaging Christmas. The Most Reverend Justin Welby went on to urge shoppers to give ten per cent of their Christmas budget to Food Banks instead of splashing out on expensive presents. He reminds us that giving at Christmas reflects God’s generosity in giving us his son Jesus Christ to give us a full and abundant life. In turn, he suggests that we are generous in a way that shows love and affection rather than trying to buy love and affection. Take a break from running endlessly around the hamster wheel of seasonal pressure and end the cycle of fear.
Revisit and revise the usual Christmas wishlist with alternatives. Give children knowledge, teach them compassion and allow them the space and support to be themselves, those are the gifts they need and will last longer than gadgets. Give friends and loved ones your time, attention and gratitude, these are far more valuable to the recipient than thoughtless trinkets.
As Dr Seuss’s Grinch character discovered:
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
by Anne Baynham, Education Administrator