Disclaimer: I’m an atheist, so Christmas holds a very different meaning for me. That of being grateful, showing compassion, enjoying the simple things in life.
Christmas is just around the corner… Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole idea of Christmas just as much as the next person, but the reality of it is immensely different to what the media in general portrays. Yes, it’s a time, even an excuse I suppose, for families to come together, to spend quality time together. I like to have a reason – so that’s probably the wrong word, you get the gist – to visit my family as I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like, but I despise the build up.
The consumerism and crowds; mad panic buying for things people don’t really need. The pressure to be happy, social, sane. We’ve been taught how to celebrate Christmas in a certain way – to enjoy a feast, be merry and kind. To be surrounded by loved ones. But the majority aren’t able to celebrate in such a way. Christmas has turned from a religious celebration into something commercialised by giant enterprises.
Christmas nowadays = buying this for that person, this for the next, oh, can’t forget so and so.
Christmas is first and foremost about spending money. The average British person will spend £54,000 on Christmas over the course of a lifetime, and last year one in three of us relied on credit cards to pay for it. The pressure to spend is unparalleled: gifts, decorations, food, events, travel… these aren’t considered luxuries at this time of year. Families are shamed and guilt-tripped into it, with hundreds of thousands of people falling into debt in order to create the “perfect Christmas” society has indoctrinated us into believing we need to achieve.
Almost more terrifying than the rampant consumerism is the forced narrative towards family togetherness. You’d be hard-pressed to find a positive depiction of Christmas that doesn’t portray a happy nuclear family sitting around a dinner table. This must create a lovely sense of smug conformity for those who can achieve it, but it’s to the detriment of the mental health of everyone who doesn’t have this privilege.
Families struggling to feed, clothe and look after their children every other day of the year are expected to somehow scrape together the money to celebrate this ‘tradition’. Sounds like an extreme example, it’s unfortunately the truth. On top of the 4,500 people sleeping rough, there are also more than 300,000 people in temporary shelters, hostels and sofa-surfing.
Maybe I’m a Scrooge? Maybe not. I don’t hate Christmas, I love the twinkly lights, seeing children bursting with excitement, eagerly anticipating Santa’s arrival – and mulled wine, who doesn’t?! – but these things don’t have to cost a fortune. Christmas shouldn’t be about impressing people with extravagant gifts, putting on a show for the sake of other’s, or following society’s ‘norms’ of what Christmas should be.
Do Christmas your way. If that’s going all out and having a party, do it. If that’s spending the day walking the dogs, do it. If that’s completely dismissing Christmas dinner in favour of sandwiches, do it. My point is, you do you!!!
Matt Haig’s tweet the other week summed this up perfectly:
Ways to survive Christmas:
1. Keep a routine.
2. Don’t compare your Christmas to the best bits of other people’s.
3. Find some quiet moments. Retreat to a bedroom.
5. Do yoga. (Unfestive/useful.)
6. Know many feel like you. Come online and find them.
7. Stop shopping.