Change Alley

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Christmas

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Wherever you look, you’ll read something about “How To Have A Greener Christmas”. Helpful suggestions such as reducing packaging, buying locally and using low energy tree lights are really just the usual anti-climate change propaganda dressed up with a sprig of holly and some tinsel. Valid though these seasonal hints and tips may be, they’re missing the point. Christmas is the traditional big feast in the middle of winter to cheer us up when everyone’s at their lowest ebb. To brighten our darkness, Christmas must provide a contrast with ‘normal’ life. It’s true that modern Christmas has become an orgy of consumerism, cheap tat and mounting desperation, but we only have ourselves to blame.

I grew up in the 50s, with food rationing fresh in people’s minds and the economy still trying to kickstart itself. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t well-off either. Little ‘extras’ had to be worked and saved for, and were valued all the more for that. We had a rule: no presents except for birthdays, Christmas and perhaps an egg at Easter. Consequently, the contrast between the seasonal festivities and our everyday existence was intoxicating. The anticipation, the rituals, a few decorations and some rich food was enough to convince everyone they’d had a great time without spending a fortune. The tinsel and the wrapping paper were carefully stored away for next year.

Compare that with today’s Yuletide experience. We consume all year, buying ourselves and each other all kinds of nick-nacks and geejaws designed to fall apart or go out of fashion long before the Christmas shopping season starts in October. We’re sated by retail therapy, bored by novelty. What do you give someone who buys themselves whatever they want whenever they want it? As far as I can tell, you throw money at the problem in a vain attempt to make Christmas ‘special’, or at least distinguishable from August Bank Holiday or the third Tuesday in February. Over-consumption at Christmas can’t be separated from the much wider problem of universal over-consumption all year round.

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Written by Pete Smith

December 24, 2007 at 3:07 pm

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