Santa Claus is coming to town. But some, worried about excessive consumerism, the environment or the demise of Catholic values, won't be waiting by the fireplace on Christmas eve
According to a recent Christmas survey by Deloitte, the Irish will spend an average of 1, 431 euros on Christmas this year. The French will spend 556 euros, followed by the Germans (420 euros) and the Dutch (411 euros). On his anti-Christmas website, 'Steve' says 'Christmas is a major, pro-active, assault on the psyche whose main function is to indoctrinate the young into a consumerist, and by extension, pro-capitalist way of life.' How can we argue with him?
Christmas is a capitalist’s dream holiday. Excessive spending is highly encouraged and buyers are taken off-guard with intense advertising efforts and tempting sales. Family love, friendship and caring are just a few emotions shamelessly exploited by advertisers. Christmas advertisements bombard you with special offers and make you feel guilty you did not purchase your presents yet. Many take a less drastic stand and protests against shops and companies that start their Christmas ad campaigns in … October.
Many say: enough is enough. Since the beginning of the new millennium, anti-Christmas groups have gained significant public visibility. Adbusters, a Canadian non-consumerism organisation, protest against excessive materialism at any time of the year. Their Buy Nothing Day campaign kicks off at the beginning of the Christmas holiday season. Members of the Christmas Resistance Movement, and their French counterpart Mouvement anti-Noel also boycott the idea of purchasing gifts.
A time when a lot of (energy) waste and ecological damage is produced from wrappings, lights, cards and decorations; it seems that the Christmas holidays are not as green as its emblematic symbol, the Christmas tree. In 2005, 32.8 million trees, at a retail value of 1, 374 million dollars were cut down just in the United States. Giving non material gifts is an interesting alternative to making Christmas more eco-friendly, less consumer-frenzied.
Johanna Duyan, 26, from Canada, decided not to buy material friends for her relatives and friends: 'It was becoming too expensive and too much about buying. We decided that each year we would all go in on a charity donation of our collected choice. Last year we gave to an Autism Awareness group. It gives us so much more pleasure to know that our money is going towards something useful and positive in our world.'
A similar solution is suggested by Kate Kilpatrick, 35, based in Germany: 'A friend of mine has a tradition within her family of giving 'services' for Christmas. For example, her brother promises to baby-sit for a weekend during the year so that she and her husband can go away for a weekend without the children. Giving some time and commitment to someone else might be more meaningful than giving a physical present.'
Place for Christ in Christ-mas?
And who remembers that this special time of the year is actually a Catholic holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem some twenty centuries ago? Some protest either for or against religious references during the December holiday. The religious spirit, Christian conservatives claim, has lost its importance in the celebration of the holiday.
But what about the non-Christians? With the rising levels of cultural diversity in western societies it becomes a question whether the Christ is indeed necessary in Christmas, or should disappear from them altogether. In his 2003 book The Trouble with Christmas, 'avowed American atheist' Tom Flynn argues that Christmas traditions need to be reconsidered and amended and its universal celebration, often leading to cross-cultural confrontations, should be limited. Why should the Muslims, the Jews and the atheists be forced to celebrate a Christian holiday?