Spreading the Christmas Cheer
December is upon us, and that can mean only one thing: it’s Christmas! Time for sleigh bells ringing, gift giving, lots of food, chocolate, crackers, Santa and plenty of booze, right?
Without wanting to sound too nostalgic, Christmas doesn’t feel the same as when I was younger. It seems—commercially, at least—that the idea of showing people that you care about them has been replaced by showing how much you care, with quantity taking priority over quality.
Adverts tell us that an already decadent roast dinner is not enough; now the Christmas feast must be Instagram-ready food-porn of the highest order, with at least three meals’ worth of food. A few thoughtful gifts bought specifically because the receiver will enjoy or appreciate them has been ousted by shovel-loads of throwaway, forgettable presents that are as expensive as they are unnecessary. It is all about the stuff and not the reason.
Now I’m not one to harp on about the real meaning of Christmas, as we all know it’s the annual celebration of the shortest day of the year—winter solstice—which was designated the 25th December by the Roman Empire (when they appropriated it from ancient European paganism) and later assimilated into an annual celebration of the birth of Christ, when Christianity was adopted as the official religion of the Romans, in the 3rd Century.
The cultural meaning of Christmas, however, varies from person to person. Some see it as a religious experience, for others it’s all about family. It can be a party or a time of sadness, joyful or reflective; everyone has their own opinion of what Christmas should be. What we can all agree on is that Christmas is about others. We give gifts, we share food, we spread a little Christmas cheer.
With that in mind, I find it difficult to reconcile the ever-increasing encouragement in shops to spend excessive amounts of money on food and gifts—a lot of which will be thrown away—whilst the amount of people relying on food banks grows. The almost infinite amount of corporate Christmas displays between Black Friday and the Boxing Day sales feel more and more in bad taste when there are people around us who cannot even afford to eat.
It was Jesus himself who said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Whether you agree with the rest of his ideas or not, that one is just basic human decency.
So, this year, I have asked my friends and family to not buy me any presents. Instead, I have asked them to buy goods for food banks. I might miss out on a few gifts, but I’d rather that than someone else be unable to eat over the festive season. Normally I don’t talk publicly about being charitable, as it is between me and the cause, but this is something everyone could do. If we all spent £10 on food and gave it to someone who needs it, wouldn’t everyone have a merrier Christmas? And isn’t that what it’s all about?