Christmas “taken hostage” and “needs to be freed”

Nice to see the Pope has realised what lots of people have known for a very long time:

Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference. Today also the same indifference can exist, when Christmas becomes a feast where the protagonists are ourselves, rather than Jesus; when the lights of commerce cast the light of God into the shadows; when we are concerned for gifts, but cold toward those who are marginalised. This worldliness has taken Christmas hostage. It needs to be freed.

Working with teenagers probably skews my perspective about how Christmas is viewed. I’ve yet to meet a teenager who tells me something other than Christmas is about them receiving presents (quite often with a greedy gleam in their eye). Most openly mock any religious connotations if they are aware of them and – for a number of years – I’ve not heard any teen talk about giving. It’s a change  more pronounced over the last decade.

Last week when I went food shopping in Sainsbury’s I couldn’t help but notice (yet again) how frantic everything was: couples pushing mountainous shopping trolleys around, irritably grabbing at any food or drink while a noisy Christmas soundtrack drowned out anything other than shouting. Advertising everywhere urged shoppers to consume, consume, consume in order to have that idealised Christmas. There was a palpable sense of fear in the eyes of everyone in the supermarket: the sense they might miss out on something. Of course no one was smiling. Standing back the whole thing looked like big-scale mind control. Ho ho ho!

A recent survey claims that families in the UK spend 44% of their monthly salary on Christmas with retailers expecting record sales of  over £77 billion this year. Last year people borrowed £1.5 billion on credit cards over the Christmas period. Often it’s the poorest parents who have to borrow to ensure their families have the type of Christmas they see in the media.

While I’m not with the Pope in seeing God pushed out of Christmas, I’m dismayed at the gross consumerism it promotes as well as the normalisation of  what’s called “debt hangover”. It’s not the celebrations or giving of gifts I object to: just the sheer scale and pressure on families to attempt to attain their idealised festive 48 hours. No wonder so many people look miserable on the 27th. Bah humbug and a happy New Year!

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