The day after Halloween the shops had already started to change their displays from the customary ghosts and witches to festive Christmas decorations, cut outs of Santa Claus and his reindeer and so on and so forth, which really frustrated me for some reason more this year than ever before. It almost seemed that when October was over the was a collective force that was willing the holidays to be upon us and, in a round about way, for the year to be over.
TV has changed too. Sure there are adverts for toys and food all year round, but somehow they’ve become more insistent in the last couple of weeks. It’s as if you needed somehow to be reminded that we’re only about 6 weeks aware from Christmas. I got to thinking about this for a while and something struck me; either we’re gearing up to the festivities because we truly believe it’s a holiday about family and friends and peace on earth and we wish for it so much we need to start preparing for it this far in advance, or, more likely, we’ve just all got into the habit of setting this date as something to focus on to distract from something.
I’m not for one moment suggesting that we’re all trying to will our lives away and that Christmas shines out as a little light in the fog of the normal day-to-day rat race, but the fact remains no other holiday period do we spend so much time, effort and indeed money, getting ready for. I’ve long wondered if it is just to have that break at the end of the year that we all sorely need, as if to say, yup, survived another 12 months let’s celebrate before we have to do it all again. If you know me personally, you’ll be aware that I’m not a huge fan of the holiday, not a grinch as such, I just hate the crowds, the non-stop noise and the fact that everything seems so forced and plastic.
Given that I wonder if I’d really appreciate Christmas more if it was much more low-key? In fact I wonder if people would view it differently if it wasn’t the case the everything about it has become so commercial and seemingly void of meaning. Okay, fair enough, now I am sounding a little bah-humbug.
There’s a few things I do genuinely wonder about, and whether or not they’re good or bad, there are some interesting things about the Christmas period. Yes, the shops and businesses make huge efforts every year it seems to kick off the celebrations and preparations earlier and earlier, almost to the point where I’m half expecting Halloween to be swallowed up one of these years, but there is good reason for business, particularly retail, to do this.
Christmas accounts for the majority of our spending and in turn the majority of their revenue. Not that they’re not making money throughout the year, but this time of year that kicks into another level. It’s true to say that many consumers stockpile money and take loans and credit cards specifically to try to have the best possible Christmas experience. This is great for shops and businesses as they see a huge surge in profits which in turn employees more seasonal staff and contributes more tax etc. Where’s the downside?
Well as mentioned people spend, which at this time of year can put them severely in debt, and what ends up happening to too many households is that they go into the new year with bills hanging over them. We all know this, and we’re all prepared to fork out for the best gifts and food at this time of year, but without asking the question ‘is Christmas too commercial’ I will ask if it’s all worth it. Here’s a different perspective. I like to buy gadgets and consider myself an early adopter of new technology, and some of my friends and family would say, why not wait and see if you get it for Christmas, or maybe I’ll surprise you with it at the holidays. Here’s the thing, I don’t want to wait, hence the early adopter thing, and secondly I’d rather people spend their money on themselves and their family then getting me stuff. Or better yet, donate.
It’s not all about the gifts though. I almost feel sorry for November as a month, it seems to be just Christmas adjacent with very little of its own purpose. I almost feel like people have skipped straight from Halloween to December and started their shopping and preparations already. This troubles me a little bit that we have 30 days of November that we seemingly want to will away and jump right to the holidays. At home here, it’s a little different. My partner’s parents are coming over from France next week to visit us, and that is all we’ve been focused on for the last few days. Planning dinners, where we’re going to take them in Dublin and who we’ll visit. Nothing holidays related.
This is a stark contrast to the bombarding TV ads which seem to suggest that, yeah, family is about Christmas, but it’s really about the stuff you get. Once in a while, some big retailer comes up with an ad that tugs on your heart-strings about someone who can’t get home for Christmas, and at the end of the 45 second mini movie, manages to do so. Remember though, that although these are thoughtful and even emotive at times, they’re still plugging their store. Whether your family can be together or not is secondary to you buying from them.
I’m not trying to detract from the family, or for those of you who care, spiritual aspects of Christmas, they do have and always will have a place, it just jars with me that we need this holiday as an excuse to see our loved ones or send that card we’re overdue sending. Wizzard sang ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’ and maybe if we spend a little more time bringing these good aspects into the her and now, without the need for all the bells and candy canes, we’d at the very least have a little bit of it more regularly.