I’m sitting here having listened to yet another radio ad urging us to go out and spend money we don’t have before Christmas and it’s left me wondering just why it is people buy into consumerism so much. Recently we have had Black Friday, Cyber Monday and because I live in Ireland, the 8th December which as it was on a Monday this year, also seemed to spread out to include the 6th and 7th as well.
For those of you who don’t know about 8th December, in Ireland it’s the national shopping day, the day where historically ‘culchies’ those of us from the countryside, would travel into town and do our Christmas shopping tempted in by 10% off just about everything. Of course the days of only being able to travel to the city one day of the year are long gone, but the 10% tradition still remains. Town apparently was packed on that day which is good for local traders and people’s pockets of course.
But do we need to be spending so much at any time of the year, let alone this one? The answer is of course we don’t. For many the whole idea of a consumer driven lifestyle is an anomaly. The rush to spend money on things we don’t need and can’t afford just doesn’t make sense.
As a fairly low key pagan who has drifted towards paganism gradually, one who is living in a very Catholic country, I celebrate pagan festivals and will be celebrating Winter Solstice but I also take part in Christmas festivities for this means I get to spend time with friends. For Solstice any presents are hand made, or small things that I hope will have meaning for the person receiving them, at Christmas any presents are also small, tokens rather than anything more. In our family we don’t do Christmas presents at all now, nor do we stock our cupboards full of food that never gets eaten. This is not us being miserly but is about keeping it all in perspective.
I don’t usually talk about this with anyone but the other day, out with friends for lunch the subject of Christmas arose and out of the ten of us present most of us hadn’t made any preparations at all. In fact when someone said ‘You don’t still do the present thing do you?’ most of us there said no, only something small and then only for children.
This heartened me for as a country creeping out of recession, one where the poorest in our society have been hardest hit, one where the numbers of homeless have increased dramatically I believe it is what we need to be doing as opposed to borrowing money needlessly. It doesn’t mean we cannot celebrate whether it be Solstice or Christmas, but hopefully it means we can do so while thinking about why we are celebrating rather than what we have gained materially at this time of year.