It’s inescapable. The moment Halloween ends, the seeds begin to be planted. The classic tunes aren’t playing yet but lights start to go up; gold chocolate reindeer appear in supermarkets; and hints for gift ideas begin popping up everywhere. By late November/early December, you can’t walk into a shop without the senses being assaulted by festive cheer: it smells of spices; there’s tinsel everywhere; and Nat Cole is crooning in the background. And we must face the fact that a whole year has flown by and it’s that time of year. Again…
If the population of the world is split into two types of people – the Scrooges and the Non-Scrooges – I can say I’m in the latter camp. I’ve always looked forward to Christmas. I’ve always loved decorating the tree to yuletide tunes; tucking into the good ol’ Turkey; and playing family Charades by the fire et cetera. So this isn’t a rant against Christmas: I don’t hate the festivity at all. However, when I contemplate the modern-day Christmas, I have to say that there are few things really wrong with it.
Here are the five biggest ones I can think of.
If I were a devout Christian, this would get to me the most: that is, the extent to which Christmas has been commercialised. Because, truth be told, it’s not about celebrating a holy birthday anymore. Here’s a great example: I was trying to get my hands on an advent calendar (growing up, we always had a traditional one with an idyllic advent scene – a cosy stable blanketed in snow and so forth) but now such calendars are nearly impossible to find. Instead, they’re Lindt, or Haribo, or Barbie, or even – and I find this one the most offensive – “beauty” advent calendars which cost upwards of £100 and offer a perfume or facial cream each day of December (as if there weren’t enough gifts this time of year already…). And the pictures on these calendars are either Rudolph, or a snow man, or Father Christmas – but no more nativity scenes to be seen.
I once heard that retailers make the majority of their annual profit during the Christmas season. So it is a magical time of year, yes, but it’s also the greediest time of year. Numerous unneeded – and, let’s be honest, sometimes unwanted – gifts are exchanged. It’s mind-boggling that a pagan-festival-turned-Christian celebration became the most materialistic event of the year. It begs the question: what would the namesake of Christmas say if he could see exactly what the supposed celebration of his birth has come to?
2. Gift-giving is both expensive and stressful.
Leading on from the first problem, this makes Christmas insanely expensive. When I was a broke student it was a source of real concern: how can I afford to buy friends and family gifts this year? Moreover, it is a source of stress: what can I possibly give them that they will at least like – if not actually need? Normally we only have to deal with the dilemma of buying a friend or family member one gift for his/her birthday but for this day everyone’s birthday is condensed into one. The dilemmas are multiplied – and so are the pennies spent.
3. The day itself is stressful.
Not only is gift-buying stressful but often the day itself is too. It’s a day the whole family gets together so of course there’s bickering, then there’s the pressure for the day to be perfect, and cheery, and fun. And so often in life, the pressure to have fun sometimes negates the actual having fun. That’s the risk: there has been over a month’s build up so of course – like New Year’s – it is more often than not anticlimactic. Well, an anti-climax of fun with maximum anxiety…
Ever wonder why such a fuss is made over an annual event? It’s not like it happens every five years, or even every other year. It’s Every. Single. Year. And time flies by so it sometimes feels like Christmas has only just ended, only for it to begin all over again! The level of hype and anticipation for an annual event really is fascinating; and one has to wonder whether it’s actually necessary.
5. Triggers the worst January Blues.
January is depressing enough – what with the cold and darkness falling in the middle of the afternoon – but, to top it all off, the post-Christmas come down can be a catalyst for the gloomiest of moods. I remember the acute disappointment of Christmas ending as a child – especially after such anticipation, and not being able to sleep the night before in order to catch Father Christmas stuffing that stocking. And that disappointment doesn't dissipate with adulthood. Many aren’t even allowed to drown their sorrows if participating in the established "Dry January". I frequently suffer Sunday blues, and that’s just when the weekend is over. Post-Christmas blues are Sunday blues on steroids.
But, on the bright side, less than one short year to go before Halloween ends and the process begins all over again…
So there were five of the problems I have with Christmas. But I don’t want to leave it at that. Having claimed I’m a non-Scrooge, the tone of this post has suggested otherwise. Despite all of the above, I am looking forward to throwing myself into Christmas shopping, and spending the holidays at my childhood home. I’m also a bit of a hypocrite since I decorated our tree in late November, even though we are moving flats the week before Christmas, so I will have to take it down and redress it in the new flat all over again! Which demonstrates that I too am a victim of Christmas’ allure, and the anti-Christmas sentiment expressed was only half-hearted.
But it is food for thought; how Christmas came to be this way, and whether we do make too much of it. Despite its faults, I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas! And I hope that it isn’t stressful or anticlimactic. Ultimately, it’s a time to celebrate with family and friends –and there’s nothing wrong with that, at least.