In 2012 the last year that figures were produced by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme, Americans spent 563 billion dollars in the run up to Christmas. Great for the economy, or is it?
Or does it add further private debt to the millions who overspend and go into debt for what we think Christmas should be about. If we could only think differently and contribute just 5% or 20 billion dollars of that enormous spend, the Global water crisis could be wiped out.
We could make Christmas happen every day for those impoverished through the lack of water in the world, The reduction would hardly be felt by the consumers. Why is this not done for the betterment of humanity?
Christmas advertising usually starts at the end of October with all the big stores convincing people that they must buy the latest gadget for Christmas. So much stuff is bought that is wasted or easily broken; gifts are received that are not wanted, useful or even liked; and, they are all driven by consumerism which adds to the mad buying spree that is the “Christmas shopping”.
There is an added burden and cost to getting rid of the packaging that swells our recycling efforts. When you think that 75 million euro worth of wrapping paper alone that has to be disposed of immediately Christmas Day is over, it is mindboggling. This, along with all the other junk that ends up broken or cannot be put together in the first instance, could be stopped. Has the time not come to change?
On top of all of that, the overstretched credit cards, loans from Credit Unions, Banks, moneylenders, etc. brings added stresses to so many people. Would it not be a lot wiser if people spent Christmas as it was meant to be - with family, friends and neighbours or visiting the sick, alone or lonely?. People find they have so much to do - all the extra shopping for food and drink and the presents and all the other things that have to be done. It is no wonder there is so much stress in a household. Statistics show that domestic violence escalates at Christmas time. This is unnecessary stress that need not be endured if we thought about Christmas differently. I think it is time to get rid of the juggling acts, try and stay calm and stop adding needless burdens to people and their lives.
Every year we are herded into this frenzy of buying and we now think that is what is expected. If everyone just stopped and looked at the real meaning of Christmas, Christmastime could become enjoyable, relaxed and stress free and enjoy it with family and friends. Is all this stress, which for some is overpowering, really necessary? Could we make a decision to act in a different way and become more aware of what really matters ?. I know the economy is dependent on people spending - the more the merrier. But, how do you square that with finances which are scarce and precarious for many and often borrowed at great expense. The added stress of facing into January to repay borrowed money will again cause anxiety, stress and worry. Surely we should promote this. Overspending is a feature of Christmas and should be actively discouraged.
I am not against Christmas. People should enjoy that extra nice dinner, a more expensive bottle of wine, a gift that will be enjoyed and used, or buying something special that has a meaning. What I am against is the spend, spend, spend that leaves so much misery in its wake. What about bringing back the magic of Christmas with songs and carols and music to lift the spirit? These resonate in the brain and bring immense pleasure. What about upping the sense of community spirit? What about allowing people to feel your care and concern? What about calling or inviting your neighbour for a chat or for a cuppa? What about adapting a sense of warmth and inclusion to someone who is alone? What about renewing an old friendship that has gone cold? All of these mean much more than a gift which may not even be wanted, much less used or have to be paid back with another present.
It is up to all of us to restore the true meaning of Christmas and take the pressure and stress out of a season of goodwill and make it meaningful and memorable. We could all celebrate the precious people in our lives at this special time. It only comes once every year and we should enjoy the season of memories and family and those whose paths we cross without spending excessively. How do we even know if we will be around to celebrate another. We don’t!. What if, the United States did give the 5% to allow every human access to clean water and eliminate typhoid and all the other diseases associated with lack of clean water? Wouldn’t that be a great miracle to happen at Christmas.