‘Tis the season to be jolly…well it’s almost coming to an end. But December is the month of excitement and festivities – not to mention overspending and overeating! So, I’m putting Christmas under the spotlight…
This year has been monumental for my family. Not only did we celebrate our first Christmas with the new addition to the family, my sister-in-law, but it was the first time it was just my immediate family around the table. For the first time we spent most of the day indulging and relaxing than slaving in the kitchen. Generally, it was a carefree and stress free Christmas and you know what – we loved it!
It seems customary that each year I’m asked by someone or another whether I celebrate Christmas. At first I used to say no because I assumed celebrating the birth of Christ would be a religious affair involving going to church, praying and centring the day on God. Over the years I’ve come to realise that everyone I know (Christian or not) celebrate Christmas in almost the same way.
We all put up a tree and decorations, exchange cards and gifts (even if they’re just chocolates!), cook up a huge Christmas feast and spend the day eating our way to paralysis and watching films we wouldn’t otherwise pay attention to.
Most of us look forward to the prospect of a white Christmas, we’re eager to experience the buzz of the German festive market and romantic air of Christmas songs. We marvel at the extent some people will go to wash over their homes with outrageous light displays. We enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at work and looming time off over the holidays. Overall, as a nation we look forward to the festive season for all reasons other than God – or more specifically the birth of Christ.
As a British Asian, our family has adopted the festival as a way to embrace British culture. You can’t escape the buzz of Christmas if you live in the Western World. Many people interpret this widespread excitement as a manufactured commercial gimmick to cash in on all things festive. The belief in Santa is reinforced to pressure parents into buying presents for their children – regardless of whether they’ve been a good little boy or girl! Each year the demand and expectations of gifts are rising to foolishness. From accepting a board game as a fun present, there is now a demand for hi-tech gadgets like Wii consoles or iPads…for children who have barely entered their teens.
The oldie in me is screaming out in frustration when I say youngsters today have been blinded by advertising and consumerism. They haven’t worked for their money so they don’t appreciate the value of it. It’s easy to blame the retail sector for plugging extravagant gifts as necessities to a modern lifestyle. But aren’t parents also to blame? Isn’t it part of their job description to explain to their child what is acceptable as a Christmas gift at their age? Parents who barely make ends meet during the recession are forking out hundreds of pounds on gifts that will be deemed as insufficient once a newer model is released. Surely this is adding pressure on how spectacular the birthday present should be, which is meant to be the “child’s” day, thus elaborate spending is somewhat more suitable. If a 10-year-old is bought an Xbox for Christmas, by the time they’re 15, what could be as exciting a gift for them?
I hate to admit it at risk of imitating Scrooge’s bah humbug, but the commercial side of Christmas is verging on ridiculous. To avoid the crazy cost and sky-high expectation of expansive gifts, my cousins and I decided to do Secret Santa with a twist. We had a £3 budget and could only shop from Poundland. You’d be surprised at how creative people could be once set a challenge. Although the gifts weren’t exactly worth keeping for a lifetime, the process was fun and money wasn’t an issue.
I don’t mean to come across as a Christmas scrounge – I did buy other presents besides the Secret Santa! But Christmas is so much more than that for me. It’s symbolic of keeping faith in the future and being optimistic for the New Year ahead. It’s a time to let go of the past and be thankful that the year’s done and dusted. It’s the dawn of a new year that brings with it new opportunities and adventures. The holiday season is a chance to spend quality time with the family, socialise and be happy. Christmas is so much more than competing against flamboyant gifts and hoping you give as good or bad as you receive. It’s my favourite time of the year because of the hustle and bustle in town, the sense of excitement, the merriment, the soulful romantic Christmas jingles, the smiles and planning for the big day. Alongside this, the underlying thought that new starts are just around the corner.