Monday, November 26, 2007

The Christmas Revolution.....taking our Christmas back from the marketing gurus!

OK, last weekend I had a mini-rant about Christmas, and what it has become. Here's the bigger picture, as I see it.

Already, hopping around blogland, I see the whole big wind-up beginning, as more and more people start stressing. Just for example, Ruth said "I must admit for the first time ever I'm really stressed about Christmas both emotionally and financially"

and Sheila in lamenting how hard it is to find gifts for kids she barely knows said "Christmas isn't supposed to be like this, and I hate that I seem to be the one making a problem out of it." which elicited a flood of responses proving that she is definitely NOT the only one battling with it! In fact it was responding to Sheila's post that got me thinking more about all this.

What has Christmas has become in 2007?

  • people worry about the deadline for posting overseas gifts
  • the shops are already crowded with people scurrying around looking frazzled and frantic
  • prices of food rise like mad at this time, but ingredients must be found, cakes baked...
  • builders and decorators go crazy trying to get materials and meet deadlines, because everyone wants to remodel in time to impress the Christmas influx of visitors.
  • Credit Cards are stretched to the max,
  • people who barely have time to comb their hair on a normal day now have to squeeze in extra time to decorate the house with the year's latest flavour-of-the-month trend in Christmas baubles
  • poor defenseless trees die in their millions, or fake ones get hauled out (I battle to decide which is the lesser of two evils, I personally love a real tree, but ...)
  • Christmas cards have to be bought, written in and posted (does anyone still do that?)
  • Endless lists have to be made re who to send gifts and cards to, who did and didn't reciprocate last year, who did send but was embarrasingly ommitted from our list, and it arrived too late to send a last minute one in return... the politics of Christmas giving is almost as complicated as national politics, but with a smaller budget to overspend!
  • menus are planned and food bought in obscene quantities,
  • travel arrangements made and repeatedly altered as families battle to juggle ever more complicated schedules (airlines and hotels also bump up prices like mad)
  • and finding the right gift for someone who, let's be honest, already has all and more than they could possibly need for a happy life is just a huge pain in the proverbial rear end!

ENOUGH ALREADY! How did we buy into this madness of self-imposed duties and guilt trips if they are not performed on a scale that will deeply impress our neighbours and friends?

I realise the world is rapidly becoming more and more secular and self centred, but does anyone remember what the holiday is originally about? As I recall, it had something to do with giving families time off work so that they could be together to attend church to celebrate a religious event, namely the birth of the Saviour! And show appreciation for his gift by giving to others, in return.

Now not everyone is an ardent Christian, so I understand that other traditions have grown up around the holiday, so that even those who do not attend church can at least have a special time with their families.....

But as Christmas traditions evolved, when did we all buy into the commercial aspects of it? When did it become mandatory to spend a fortune on gifts for every Tom, Dick and Harry and his cat? When did spending more on decorations than the average African household lives on in a month become an essential ingredient of a happy Chrismas? When did eating yourself into an early grave and consuming enough alcohol to fuel an entire month of hangovers become part of it?

Am I missing something, or was it originally intended as a time to rest and enjoy family and think about the things that REALLY matter in life? How did we let it become a time of stress and exhaustion and overspending, so that, instead of starting the New Year refreshed and strengthened, we start it tired and trying to overcome rising fear of the month end when the bills for all the excess will arrive, and we will somehow have to sort out the deficit?

Have we all become so shallow and materialistic that we don't believe someone loves us unless they prove it with a sizeable gift?

I am fully conscious of the need to maintain some of the traditions, because, as Ruth so eloquently put it in a comment to my Saturday post none of us wants to become part of the "ba humbug group", but we definitely need to give it all a re-think and get it back in perspective.

I'm not suggesting we throw the baby out with the bathwater, and do away with it all. Far from it. All I am saying is, let's all do as much as we are comfortable with and can afford without stress to our time, emotions or finances! Let's stop labouring under self-imposed expectations that become a burden instead of a joy. It is a CHOICE, and we can CHOOSE not to buy into the excesses of the season!

One of the core traditions, and joys, of Christmas is giving, not because we have to, or to reciprocate, but for the joy of it! So maybe the question we need to ask ourselves is "Are we giving to the right people?" Let's face it, while we may not all be wealthy, it is a safe bet that anyone who has regular access to the internet and their own computer, and leisure time to blog is relatively well off compared to many in the world who consider themselves lucky to get a meal every day, and by comparison, our kids are really quite spoiled! So instead of giving to the already blessed, maybe we should consider giving to the less privileged.

The best Christmas our family had was when staying with my sister's family in Zimbabwe a couple of years ago. We each put all the money we would have spent on each other together and bought basic staple foods like maize meal, beans and tinned meat etc. as well as Bibles translated into Shona, and made up several food parcels. We went to a local high school and asked the headmaster to hand it all out to some of the poorest families. The look of joy on his face was the best Christmas gift we ever got.

So here's my offered solution (use it, don't use it!!) :)


All we have to do is send a notice to all friends, family members and colleagues who would normally expect a gift, along the following lines (obviously modified to suit individual relationships and circumstances!) :

"Please note the following. I have joined an anti-commercial Christmas Revolution.

I love you to bits, but I am not buying you a gift this year. Instead, I am putting together an amount I can afford, which would have been spent on gifts for all friends, family and colleagues, and donating it to ( your favourite charity).

As we all have as much as we really need in life, I would encourage you to do the same for me and my family, we know you love us, and do not need gifts to prove it, so please give whatever you would have spent on us to your favourite charity.

Please also treat this as your Christmas card, greetings to you and yours, may you have a wonderful Christmas.


thus endeth the rant!


Oswegan said...

I agree. We are having a frugal Christmas. It doesn't make it any less fun. I'm probably going to make prints for my family and everyone else gets a card. My kids, I'll spoil just a little.

And even though I completely agree in the non-commercial thing in principle, and even though I know it's all about that dear 8 pound, 6 ounce baby Jesus . . .

I can't wait to play Guitar Hero III for XBox 360.


imac said...

Too much money spent- I agree there.

Christmas aint wot it used to be, init. lol.

New post now showing

CJ said...

You have given words to the sentiments we have had for years...sad really, that Christmas has been reduced to such a crass, commercial circus! I agree that we all revolt, start a revolution and re-define Christmas according to our own terms...

Janet said...

We have a fairly simple Christmas around our house. But I must admit to doing a bit of remodeling in time for Thanksgiving! But it was something we needed to do and the timing just worked.

I think the buying frenzy is obscene....especially in the US.

Gillian @ Indigo Blue said...

Loved this! I agree. I started early this year. I said I wasn't going to. But I did. I have saved myself a ton of stress because of it.
I scaled back my list. I am not buying for everyone. I think it is too commercial, and now I am focusing on the reason we have Christmas, and the celebration.
No more material crap. I love adding to my home each year, a new quilt, a few new decorations. But that is it. We keep to our traditions, instead of subscribing to the new trends. Makes the holiday more special.

Suzi-k said...

ok os, you have to enlighten me... after all I live in darkest Africa where flavour-of-the-month stuff arrives months after the next trend has replaced it, what is Guitar Hero III for XBox 360.???
CD? Game? latest hands free plectrum so no human needed to play latest guitar hits?

RobC said...

Hi Sue
A great posting that shares my view as well.

karoline said...

how coincidental..this is what will be happening here this boys say the best part about christmas isn't the gifts, it's the gathering..


Shirley Goodwin said...

I'm not doing Christmas presents this year as I don't have a job at the moment.

I also think the Oxfam gifts are a great idea - buy a goat or a cow for needy people instead of wasting it on pointless consumer goods.

Oswegan said...

It is a video game where the controller is a pretend rock-n-roll guitar. The object is the play the notes of the rock song as they appear on the screen. The crowd reacts to your playing, so you either rock or you get booed off the stage.

For me it's usually the later because I am terrible at it.


Sheila said...

Hi Suze, as you have observed I am with you on this. I will borrow your 'notice' if I may, for a post next week. I have a plan that others may be interested in, and your words would be great to put with it.

sam said...

os, wow, that DOES sound cool! I would also murder my favourites if I tried it.... even my singing is best when alone in the car where no-one else has to suffer!

Sheila, go for it! You started this!

Gillian said...

Hello Suzi - you've stated your anti-commercialisation of Christmas opinion much more eloquently than I could have done and I agree whole-heartedly.
It is time for a back-lash and I think the blogging world can make a big difference.
If people would only take a step back and realise that happiness and contentment come from within, not from the latest 'must-have' wrapped in glittery paper.
I'm going to link to your post to share your message.Love your blog!

Tessab said...

Hi, I have been linked to your blog by a friend. Both of us decided to have our own 'revolt against commercialism' this year. It is nice to know that so many people feel this way. xxxx

ValGalArt said...

i am with you on this! The reason the joy is sucked out of the giving is that you are not giving because you want to you are giving as an obligation. Another alternative is to give them a raincheck on a gift like I will spend a day with you and we will have fun! Or I will make you a wonderful gift and it will arrive randomly sometime throughout the year when you are least expecting a pick me up. That is my gift, to surprise you with a loving gesture in 2008.

Suzi-k said...

valgalart, cool idea!

Suzi-k said...

those who wanted to do something to join the anti-materialistic Christmas revolution, check out the BRILLIANT post from Sheila in Canada and see what she and her daughter are doing.......