Despite the criticisms, the greed, the gluttony, and the rampant expenditure on unwanted or short-lived items, Christmas in the 21st century can still serve a purpose.
Though there are many aspects of a modern Christmas which are unappealing, and at times even damaging, it does not appear to be going anywhere any time soon, and for that reason, rather than fighting the festive mood, it may be best to embrace and subvert it.
What we now see as Christmas, the stress and struggle of buying presents, the financial hardship that inevitably follows a busy December period, the feasting on food and alcohol, it is not how it always was, and thus is not how it always has to be.
Rather than the imported plastic presents, and the plastic smiles that follow them, why don’t we see Christmas as a chance to invest in things which are truly meaningful and beneficial.
The saying is that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas, but it seems that there are many presents which have just as lengthy an attraction as the hypothetical pooch in the RSPCA adverts.
Luckily, we don’t have to buy into the excessive consumerism in the lead up to the 25th, and with time off work and in the company of friends and family, we can use the time more productively.
As an anti-capitalist, an anti-consumerist, and an atheist I believe we can take the best aspects of the festive season whilst still remaining true to our principles.
For this reason I propose that Christmas becomes a time for giving three things: love, life, and future.
This is the easiest and cheapest present any of us could give at Christmas. Whether it is to our friends, family, or a new flame in your life, there is no doubt that feeling wanted and appreciated is a feeling that tops any purchase from a store.
Christmas could be a time where we show those close to us how significant a part they play in our lives, or it could be a time where we rebuild bridges with those who have drifted.
For couples it could be a time whereby they decide to share their love with another, either by welcoming in a new family member through adoption or fostering, or by visiting the local animal rescue shelter and providing a home to something without one.
It is disgusting to think that some people can abandon an animal just weeks after committing their love to it, but year after year this trend continues. Animal shelters across North Wales are already preparing for an influx of unwanted pets. You could give these animals the love they deserve.
And if animals are not your thing, and if you have no partner to start a family with, then you can give your love in another way. There are thousands of charities doing fantastic work across the country and many of them would be delighted to have your help and support over the Christmas period.
Crisis, the homelessness charity, gets around 4,000 volunteers each Christmas, and you are able to find your nearest centre here.
There can surely be no greater present than giving the gift of life, and though you may be sheltered from the results of your gift-giving, or your gift-giving itself may not take place for many years, it may be the most valuable action you will ever have conducted.
Such a gift could come in many forms, but whichever is chosen the end result is the same.
The levels of donated blood drop dramatically in the months before and during the Christmas period and there are areas in the UK which are now in “critical need of blood donations”. Just 15-minutes of your time is needed to rectify this situation.
Signing up to be an organ donor is another sure fire way of saving a life. You are able to register online or at an NHS establishment, and with 6,000 people dying in the last 10 years because they failed to receive an organ it is crucial that we all offer what we can.
I am delighted to see that Wales has introduced an opt out system for organ donation. From the 1st of December “if you have not recorded an organ donation decision you will be treated as having no objection to donating any of your organs.”
Life can also come through charitable giving. Though people are sceptical about giving donations, as some of it will undoubtedly be used on overheads and staff costs, there are charities who are able to minimise this, ensuring that the overwhelming majority of the money that you donate goes straight to the people that need it most.
The movement for Effective Altruism is growing annually and the charities listed on The Life You Can Save show where you are able to get the most bang for your buck. A £100 donation to Schistosomiasis Control Initiative for example, is guaranteed to protect 186 children from schistosomiasis for one year, “preventing life-threatening conditions including bladder cancer, kidney malfunction, spleen damage, and anaemia.”
Or an alternative method of saving lives, which will benefit your own, save the planet, and save you money, is to change your diet. Being a vegetarian, or better yet a vegan, has countless benefits, with Mercy for Animals recently stating that “400 million fewer animals were killed for food in 2014 because people are eating less meat.”
The future is a gift handed down from generation to generation, but unfortunately, over the years, it has been dismantled for the benefit of a selfish, short-sighted minority.
Though we do inherit the world from our ancestors, we also borrow it from our next of kin. Whatever actions we conduct during our time on this planet are most likely to be felt by those that come after us, and so the mistakes that we make impact heavily on future generations.
Securing a healthy, diverse, just, and more equal society is the obligation that all of us have. Not only to ourselves and the rest of humanity, but also to our children. We cannot seriously believe that we are doing what is best for them unless our actions today are creating a better tomorrow.
Your six-year-old son or daughter may not appreciate the work that you are doing currently, but by the time they turn 18 they will be able to recognise what you have done for them.
The 12 years from now until then may see the extinction of numerous animal species, it could see the end of free healthcare in the UK, it could see a further increase in the cost of higher education, it could see the planet being damaged beyond repair, and it could see the end of free movement as walls and barriers are erected across all borders.
By the time your six-year-old is 18 social mobility may have been eliminated, war may be the norm rather than the last resort, natural disasters would be a frequent occurrence, food banks provide them with meals rather than supermarkets, and home ownership would be a luxury rather than a right.
And this would not be all, these are just a few of the problems that are with us currently, and another decade of living as we do currently would see even more problems arise.
If that scenario does become a reality, the blame lies with us. We will have to explain to the next generation why we have allowed things to become so bad, why we ruined their future for our own gain, and why we did nothing to stop it when we had the chance.
Of course these Christmas suggestions do not have to be limited to the festive period alone, they are ongoing and can be started at any time. Whether that is Christmas, New Year, or on a birthday, it does not matter.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
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