It’s the time of the year again: the streets are brightly illuminated, the sound of familiar Last Christmas and Jingle Bells is sounding in bars, shopping centers, and Christmas markets. It’s the time of the year for personal reflection, charity, and unity. Christmas is around the corner and with every sheet torn off the calendar, every door opened on the advent calendar, the special day of celebration is closer.
In theory it is the time for family celebration, spending quality time with loved ones. In reality it is a stressful rush for ever so many pushing through shopping centers, rushing down the aisles amid hundreds and thousands of others. The days of joy are transformed into days of strenuous moments of what, when, where, and how many presents to buy. What should be a joyful festivity of love has become a festivity of consumerism.
The Madness of Spending
Britons are planning on spending almost £ 800 on Christmas presents this year,
Americans a staggering $ 830. In comparison, the French and Germans will splash out a, in comparison, meager € 359 and € 274, respectively.
Shockingly, however, one quarter of Brits are not actually happy but feel pressured to spend these massive sums. Let’s put this into perspective: £ 800 is some people’s monthly salary. With the average salary in the UK less than £ 1,500 per month, many are, in fact, spending half of December working for consumerist spending alone.
The question is: Do you or anyone else feel happier for it?
How many of the presents that you have received over the years are packed away somewhere? How often did you see children simply tear open the wrapping paper only to move on to the next present without given the just opened one a second thought?
Christmas is about giving, but that is certainly not reflected in overly materialistic spending. Giving means happiness. It should bring joy to the one receiving the gift and to the one giving. Christmas means giving in a meaningful way.
A Conversation about Christmas Spending on the Parisian Metro
A few days ago, Mrs. Captain Finance came home in utter disbelief. She had apparently met two mothers, chic Parisian ladies, talking about their plans for Christmas. This fest of love and togetherness had somehow turned into a competition between the two of who buys most presents for their children. Apparently one or two weren’t enough. The mothers, already carrying numerous big shopping bags, still had big plans.
It is undoubtedly enormous joy to surprise children with gifts and see their eyes light up as their open the wrapping paper only to glimpse a long desired object revealing itself behind.
But does it really make a difference whether a child receives two or three or twenty gifts? I personally believe it does not. A couple of gifts that hold true meaning for a child, have been one their wish list for the entire year, and will enrich their lives are incredible gifts. We probably all remember opening this one present we were looking forward to all year hoping that Santa Claus will put it under the Christmas tree. And after we would not leave our present’s side, play, study, and enjoy our Lego, Playmobil, or whatever else fueled our imagination, happiness, and wellbeing.
Overspending and buying endless number of gifts, on the other hand, encourages a sense of entitlement and an unhealthy, unappreciative materialistic attitude. Where can parents go from there? A child that unwrapped twenty gifts the previous year will expect even more this year. It’s no different from the bonus you receive at work. Every year you expect a tiny bit on top.
Even more so, most of the presents will simply lie in some corner forgotten and catching dust without being used or bringing joy to the child and the family. Wasn’t that why the parents went out of their way, spent hours of their time searching for gifts, being stressed, and spending enormous sums, to bring joy? A child isn’t happier for he or she receives more presents. It’s not the quantity, but the quality.
The debt of misperceived Christmas joy
But kids are precious and we should do everything to make them happy. Although that everything often does not come in a materialistic form, the materialistic obsession that has become Christmas is forcing people to spend over budget. When people feel stressed and required to spend increasing amounts to meet expectations that are fueled by nothing but the misperception that others will spend even more, something has gone awry.
Worse, people spending over budget. The Telegraph reported on the pressures experienced by far too many to spend more on Christmas presents than they are happy with or could afford. Now, that certainly does not add to the joy of Christmas.
Christmas is wonderful. The whole run-up is always a bit dreamy, with Christmas markets popping up around town, the first snowflakes and people becoming more reflective and charitable. I love it. But Christmas to me is not about the presents, it’s about spending time with your loved ones and reflecting on life. The presents are Christmas’s sidekick. Of course, it is nice to unwrap a little something, but does it have to be fifteen, twenty, or even more presents? Most of them soon forgotten and dusting away in some corner.
My sister and I, for one, have decided to not give each other presents this year, but to go for a nice dinner and drinks.
I think that is what the Christmas spirit is all about. It is spending nice moments together that you otherwise might not. It’s about conscious living and sharing time with others.
I wish you a wonderful Christmas and holidays. Enjoy the time with your loved ones and make those days you have together count. It’s not about spending a lot of money, but spending the time with those you love and cherish.
Merry Christmas to you all.
First published 22/12/2015 - updated 24/12/2015