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Bah, humbug!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or not! Christmas is like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. You will have guessed from the title that if Christmas, for me, was a jar a Marmite, it would be forgotten about at the back of a cupboard.

I haven’t always disliked Christmas. When I was younger I used to love the twinkling of the Christmas tree lights, the home made mince pies, making decorations in school and so on. My childlike belief in Santa made it magical and my belief that it was all in honour of an unseen higher being gave it a spiritual feeling too. I just couldn’t understand the people who moaned about this occasion, or who didn’t decorate the front of their house or who even jetted off to another country to escape it. However, the simple passage of time has turned me into one of them!

 There are a few reasons for my change of heart. Finding out that Santa didn’t exist took away the magic of it all and the spiritual feeling diminished somewhat after a few atheists I have encountered made me lose a lot of faith in Christianity. (Their views are very convincing!) Even if Jesus is real, we celebrate the wrong day because he was allegedly born in September!

Another reason is the fact that Christmas is increasingly rammed down our throats from mid-November, making it tiresome and boring quite quickly. There is no way of escaping it, apart from hiding in the attic for six weeks! Decorations are put up too early, TV shows have Christmas specials and we have to endure those, horror of horror, festive songs in shops and on the radio. Not to mention the sheer number of festive adverts and sales promotions that we are exposed to. It’s all Christmas overload! Aaaaaargh!

I’ve also grown to hate the commercialism of Christmas, with all the greedy retailers fighting for our custom and cashing in on this occasion. A lot of thought and money goes into Christmas advertising and no doubt this makes the adverts even more powerful than usual. As well as being targeted with delicious looking food items and often expensive gift ideas, we are also made to feel that we have to replace our decorations, festive jumpers etc even if they are still quite new! We should even change our scented candles to a smell more appropriate for this time of year, otherwise what will our visitors and guests think of us?!

Some companies advertise products that aren’t even essential for the festive period but give the impression that they are. ‘Get your new sofa/dining set delivered in time for Christmas.’ What?! If I have people round to my own place in the future, they can sit on what I already have, and like it! I don’t vision myself ever buying the latest 50 inch TV to watch The Queen’s Speech and sitcom repeats on either!

I particularly hate Christmas adverts that are really fake in order to emotionally manipulate us to part with our cash. They usually feature a huge, happy looking family in what appears to be a room in a mansion. Why aren’t they in a standard-sized house? Why don’t we see a small child throwing a tantrum over an unwanted present? Why aren’t they all bickering over something insanely trivial? There can’t be many families in real life who are truly like this. In today’s ‘Broken Britain,’ I imagine that in many homes on Christmas Day, it is more like an episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show, with paper hats!

I find it a bit unsettling that these type of adverts play on people’s desire to have a happy family Christmas and give the impression that if we buy their products, this will happen. What is even darker is the fact that some viewers from more dysfunctional families are likely to compare their own family with the one portrayed and feel miserable at the difference between them. Do the advertisers care about that? Of course they don’t. It’s all about the money.

My own family situation has changed over the years and some adverts, as well as other aspects of Christmas, sadden me when I think of how this occasion used to be. Even though I know these adverts aren’t true to life, the powerful images make me believe that they are for many people. Facebook photos posted at the end of Christmas Day also give the impression that everyone else’s family is perfect. I’m not saying that I want people to have a horrible Christmas – I would just rather not know how happy their day was, or at least appeared to be! I’ve started to avoid logging on at this time to prevent myself feeling a bit jealous and downhearted.

 However, despite feeling a bit sad about the fact that I never have a big family celebration, I’m also glad that I don’t have to get up at 6 a.m. to start preparing dinner for ten people or worry about whether the turkey will fit in the oven! I also don’t have the stress of having to buy a mountain of presents.

I don’t like the way that Christmas is always portrayed as being a happy time but in reality, it is a very difficult time for some people. It will only intensify an already sad situation such as a recent bereavement, living in poverty, or being homeless. Also, many people, especially elderly ones, are alone on the 25th. Being a sensitive person, I’ve often spared a thought or two for the above people on Christmas Day. I feel especially sympathetic towards those who have no-one to spend it with after spending a few alone myself in the past due to family circumstances. It’s the most horrible left out, ‘social leper’ feeling and the day can’t be over soon enough.

Many people won’t give these unfortunate souls a thought though. What apparently used to be a time for thinking about other people has now become a ‘me, me, me’ occasion with expensive gifts seemingly now being people’s top priority. Even twenty years ago, my mum would say that many of us seem to have forgotten why we celebrate Christmas and that we just see it as an excuse to stuff our faces, have a booze up and get some time off work.

Returning to Christmas commercialism, I sometimes find myself being irritated by some gifts on sale because many of them are just the epitome of crap! I always try to give something meaningful so I have cringed at some items I have seen such as the ‘Gentleman’s willy grooming kit’ and the ‘Gift of nothing’ which is literally just the packaging! Even if I was a Secret Santa, I still couldn’t give some gifts because I would feel ashamed if the recipient found out it was me! Some Christmas themed merchandise also makes my toes curl. Either it is just plain tacky or you can only really use it for one week of the year! Some people will already have a particular item at home but they will buy another one simply because it has a Christmas greeting or picture on it. Easy profit for the manufacturers indeed!

I’m not a present wrapping fan either. I actually find it an ordeal because I am a bit of a perfectionist. I sometimes re-wrap gifts two or three times before I am (almost) happy with the result! Luckily I don’t have a large number of people to buy for, or it would take me forever!

You’re probably thinking that I’m a right miserable cow, but I actually sometimes envy the adults who still love Christmas. Usually they are identifiable by their Santa hats or by having so many lights on their houses that they must have to re-mortgage their house to pay their electric bill for December. Of course, having children probably intensifies one’s festive spirit because it is really a time for them. I imagine what Christmas was like many years ago when it was so much simpler. When children were probably more grateful for their gifts of an orange and a handmade toy than they are now for their pile of presents or their new iPad.

Christmas these days can basically be summed up in two words: greed and debt. The payday loan companies are no doubt having a field day at the moment. You can almost see them circling our empty wallets like vultures. Commercialism has ruined Christmas and made it over-rated, over-hyped and a lot of fuss for one day. What used to be a religious occasion has become an example of Capitalism at its worst.

So unless I get visited by three ghosts who will show me the error of my ways, I will eagerly anticipate Christmas being over for another year. Then there will be New Year for us all to look forward to. Or not!

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