I have always been granted the title of Scrooge when it came to Christmas, but it seems that this year I am finally deserving of it. What’s more is that I am not even ashamed to bear such a name.
Whereas Scrooge went from cold-hearted Christmas hater to lovable Uncle, I have done somewhat the opposite. Obviously when you are young and innocent Christmas is a time of receiving shed loads of presents, getting fat on sweets and chocolates, and staying up late to watch films. Though there is still some of that to be found as you grow older, your mind begins to place the celebrations in the context of your life. Or at least it should do.
What I mean by this is that Christmas does not exist in a bubble. I know families gather in their homes, work and careers are put on hold, and for a few short days nothing outside of the tinselled windows seems to exist, but this is sadly not the case.
Christmas should not be removed from the context in which it happens. Perhaps the reason this does occur is because, true to its title as a holiday, it is a period whereby people drop what they were once holding and they let it all go. Protests diminish, student occupations end, and conflicts are paused in order to play football. It is a welcome break from the relentless hammer that is human existence in the 21st century.
I understand why Christmas is what it is. A fairytale story, that has been built around pagan traditions, baked in an oven of capitalist rhetoric, and sprinkled with the media’s dusty consumerist topping, it is difficult to escape from the tradition that we all partake in.
Traditions though, and the people’s following of them, are not inherently a positive thing. There may be positive elements, and the concept behind such traditions may be solid and pure, but over time it is corrupted. Twisted to meet the ends of those that are set to profit.
The idea of giving to those less fortunate than yourself, the idea of spending quality time with family members, and the idea of getting absolutely hammered on Jagermeister whilst belting out The Pogues are all things that I approve of greatly, but more and more I see these ideas as taking a back seat in the holiday season. Christmas is not about these things, and it hasn’t been for quite some time.
Now Christmas is about money. It is about stress, debt, overdrafts, and participating in a Royal Rumble every time you need to visit a shop. The UK, sickeningly, has adopted the American phenomenon of Black Friday, this is then followed by Panic Saturday, which will then, inevitably, be followed by a very stringent January, where money is as tight as the belts on peoples trousers.
I have done my fair share of volunteering and charity work, and what I experienced will never leave me. In particular, my brief period in Syria. It was there that I saw families living in tents on the sides of hills. Families with no possessions, no food, no money, and next to no future. The children of these families had had their world turned upside down, and it would be impossible to explain to them why it had occurred.
Despite their situation, the children I encountered were playful. They loved having their photo taken, and they loved being able to take pictures of their own. I gave a hat to one of the children I met and he beamed, before immediately turning to run off and show his parents.
In stark contrast to this was the situation I was witness to yesterday. The opening of the presents ceremony was re-enacted once my nephew arrived at the house. A tyke of a young man with a cheeky grin and a sharp wit. My sister had bestowed gifts aplenty, as had my nephews father. As lone children tend to be, my nephew was spoilt rotten.
As the presents were given to him, he went through a process of ripping paper, briefly looking at what the present consisted of, and then discarding it without a moments notice. Like a hurricane, he tore through the wrapped and stacked, and at one point even said: “I didn’t even want this, but I got it”, before tossing the present aside. It was one of the most disheartening things I have seen in a long time.
Of course my nephew is not to blame. He is a child, a child that has been raised in the society in which we live, and as we are all products of our environment blaming a four year old for such behaviour would be very harsh indeed. Nor will I entirely blame those who supplied the presents. I would imagine that Christmas is an opportunity to treat your only child, to shower them with all the presents one feels they deserve.
The problem lies in the fact that the child does not feel grateful for the abundance of presents they have received, the buyers of the presents do not feel that spending hundreds of pounds is an extravagance, and society actively encourages people to ramp it up another notch for the following year. When is enough enough?
As I explained to my mother last night, you give a child one toy, and it will treasure it like there is no tomorrow. But you give a child 100 toys, then each individual toy seems meaningless as there are 99 others to replace it. Oscar Wilde hit the nail firmly on the head when he said that a cynic was “a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.”
It seems we have become a nation of cynics.
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