So, it’s all around us now: the tinsel, the wrapping paper, the push to
buy, buy, buy and get yourself into more debt. It’s the way of our Western world.
I will never use a credit card again, and for this reason I am not able
to be sucked into the commercialisation of Christmas, and to feel that I have
to buy presents for everyone I know. However, as parents, Paul and I have
always kept this celebration low-key anyway, and about it’s about how we spend our
TIME as a family, not how much money we can spend.
Christmas shopping is just another example of how we can get sucked into
cultural expectations rather than going inward and asking ‘what does this holy
day mean to me?’ Even if we don’t celebrate as a Christian, we can bring
meaning and reverence for the Solstice to our celebrations. Again, this does
not have to involve debt.
One thing that has become quite common amongst people wanting to live an
ethical life is the idea of buying Fairtrade or something ethical, and
therefore feeling that your shopping is justified. It’s easy to do, and very
easy to feel good when you buy such things.
I read a quote the other day which really had me thinking a lot. It was
from the book by Mark Boyle called The Moneyless Manifesto, and he asked ‘if a
rapist used a Fairtrade condom does that make his rape ethical?’ Now, you and I
both know the answer to that! Of course it doesn’t, and the author wasn’t
suggesting it did, just posing a question.
So, whenever I purchase a Fairtrade item from now on, I will ask myself,
how does this make my actions ethical?
Is there any real answer to ethical gift giving? Like anything in life,
you have to follow your conscience. Personally, I like the idea of hand-made,
locally-sourced gifts. I prefer the idea of gifts being made from a sustainable
source, too. And, if it’s not hand-made, I prefer to shop locally from an
independent business owner.
When you love or feel affection for someone, it is natural to want to
express that through a gift. Somehow, though, we’ve come to equate that the
cost of a gift is reflective of the depth of feeling we have for someone.
How would Christmas look to you if you adopted the motto of ‘less is more’?
What would Christmas look like to you if you had a budget of £50? What would
you spend it on?
If, like me, there are a lot of people in your life that you feel love
and affection for, it can be overwhelming to even know where to start. Do you
send cards to everyone you like? How do you give gifts to everyone? The short
answer is: you don’t.
The idea of gift giving generated from the idea that we’re celebrating
the birth of baby Jesus. The gifts were an expression of celebrating his
birthday. Many people ‘do’ Christmas not because they’re Christian or live in
what is considered a Christian country, but because they’ve been culturally
indoctrinated and have possibly never given any thought to why ‘they’
themselves do it.
How many of us have received gifts from people who gave them because they felt they
should? I wonder how different the celebration of Christmas would be if the only
gift we gave was to ourselves? I don’t suggest this as a selfish act, but as
one which might cut down on all the waste in this world. If you gave yourself a
gift that truly meant something to you, then it would be valued and treasured.
People know you love them by how you treat them all year round. Do you
genuinely listen to them? Are you a caring witness to their life? Do you share
laughter and tears? These are the real gifts of life, and are never found under
a Christmas tree.
For me, I have already received the best present I could hope for. My
family and I were in our local bookshop and café yesterday having our weekly
hot drink. We go here for a change of scenery, and as a treat for working hard
during the week. It’s our little sanctuary ~ home away from home. Paul made a
joke about something (nothing new there) and we all started laughing. An
elderly lady, who also comes here regularly, said “You’re such a happily
family. You’re always joking and laughing.” The words of a stranger meant more
to me than she’ll ever know. Maybe I’ll tell her next time I see her. You see,
the only thing I ever want is to have a happy family. And I believe that is
what other many other parents want as well.
Happiness does not come from stressing over gift buying or getting into
debt. It does not come from ‘celebrating’ Christmas with in-laws when we don’t
want to share their company. Happiness comes from within. It comes when we live
with integrity and stay true to ourselves. This is the greatest gift we can
ever hope to receive, and we can have this all year round. Every day can feel ‘holy’.
Christmas, to me, is about the laughter and smiles we share with those we love.
A credit card is a misnomer. It’s a DEBT card. If ever there was something
to be included on the national curriculum, it’s this: credit cards mean you
don’t have money. They are an illusion. Somehow we think it’s a badge of
honour to have a credit card. Sorry, folks, it’s not. It’s a manipulative
system designed to control people.
I’m always being baled up by someone in town near the post office or
supermarket trying to get me to sign up to their credit card. They act like
they’re doing me a favour, and can’t quite accept that I’m not interested.
The very thing that people think they’re buying with their DEBT card ~
happiness, will soon become stress when they struggle to make minimum monthly
payments. Christmas-debt hangovers last a long time.
Some people argue that they use their cards wisely and pay them off in
full each month. Why use them at all then?
My gift to you is the wish that you have a debt-free Christmas,
surrounded by people you love and who love you. May you feel joy and laughter.
May you remember those people in the world who don’t have a roof over their
head or food in their belly. I ask you this not to ignite guilt, but so that
you can fully appreciate what you have in your life. So that you give thanks.
And so that your prayers may offer a healing balm, at the deepest level, of the
lives of those less fortunate.
I don’t believe the world is going to end on December 21st, as
suggested by some who promote the end of the Mayan calendar. I believe it is a
time when we (humanity) will start to realise we’re all connected: That one
person’s pain is everyone’s pain. That one person’s wealth is everyone’s
wealth. It is our belief that we’re all separate from each other which brings
us the most hurt, pain and discontent.
There’s an American Indian tribe which has a practice whereby at the end
of the year the person in the village who has acquired the most wealth that
year gives it all away. I, for one, can see a practice like that bringing
radical changes to the economy. Not sure the high earners would appreciate it
I wish you a festive season where you are able to give thanks for your
friends, family, home, the food on your table, and that you’re able to enjoy
the wonders of this incredible planet. It might all be a ‘dream within a dream’
but while we’re here on Mother Earth, let us enjoy her, and share her gifts
wisely. After all, EVERY present we buy or make comes from Mother Earth in some
form or another. Some of her gifts will appear as wood, paper or fabric; others
will be more radically disguised in the form of plastic. May you be drawn to
her easily recognisable gifts this Christmas.