Our modern Christmas: who is it really for?

Christmas cheer? That’s not what Amanda Hemmings can hear. She shares her view on what the holiday season has become and why we should change our attitudes.

I have to keep a straight face. I can’t crack. This is my job. And it’s Christmas time soon. I mustn’t frown at children at Christmas. Even if that once a year spirit has been drained out of me after two Christmases of working in a department store which happens to have a vast array of ‘awesome ninja turtles’ and of course, a stock room dominated by Frozen dolls. They’re so haunting that I feel like I’m reliving Halloween every time I’m asked to refill a shelf.

Honestly, I do enjoy Christmas. But I value the season because it’s a time I spend with my family, watching ancient Christmas movies, drinking too much mulled wine, reminiscing about old Christmas tree decorations (ours are at least as old as me) and generally appreciating each other’s company. And I think that’s a word children are increasingly forgetting about; appreciation.

I glare at the youngsters throwing toys bigger than them across the shop floor, screaming and sometimes pushing their parents when they, for once, don’t get everything they want, and I think; why is Christmas associated with cheer when this is today’s reality of the ‘most wonderful time of the year’?

To me, and I’m sure to many others, Christmas is heavily associated with stress and consumerism. As my work colleague, Sharon Clarke, smartly said: “I feel sorry for the parents; they’re always under pressure to buy the next gadget.”

Children aren’t learning the value of money, which has daunting prospects for their future. Our economy is already in turmoil; imagine grown-ups twenty years from now as politicians spending their budgets ruthlessly just because they don’t know any different! Sounds quite familiar, come to think of it…

So, what is to blame for this seeming increase in greed in the children of today? Is it the new generation of kids who were brought up surrounded by technological advancement and all of the cheesy advertising that accompanies it? Or is it the parents’ fear of saying ‘no’ because in our rushed, work-oriented world, it’s just so much easier to give in after a long day than to deal with the consequences of rejecting a hard-to-please little one.

“Christmas is about the children”, my work colleague Lisa Gill admits. “But presents aren’t what Christmas should be about. I feel like a hypocrite for enjoying Christmas because I don’t celebrate it for the real religious reasons – It’s just a tradition for me.”

Let’s think about the word ‘tradition’. When I buy presents, I do it because I feel like I have to, because that’s the socially constructed norm of Christmas in countries such as ours. But I genuinely feel like Christmas should be about something more emotive and sentimental than people physically attacking others in supermarkets for the latest gadgets on Christmas Eve, or spending hundreds on gimmicky toys that are going to be forgotten about by New Year’s Day.

Children of today are being brought up to associate Christmas with ‘yay, things for ME!’ and then the ‘boring’ family coming over. Of course, Christmas is about giving. But you just cannot buy memories and priceless time spent with our loved ones. Children are beginning to see their parents and grandparents as suppliers of endless money. However, children aren’t the only culprits for this. We are all guilty of over-indulging, whether it be on fruit cake or Christmas gifts.

As we grow up, we lose the spirit of Christmas because we do more of the buying and less of the receiving. In fact, we are so blinded by the media and corporations making us spend that we lose sight of what really matters to us.

I for one, am going to cut back on my spending this year and instead, substitute this money for time. Each family is unique, but for mine, we are rarely all in the same room together during the year. I’d much rather be merry and bright, devouring mince pies, and having warm, heart-to-heart conversations with my family (and my cats) than having anxieties over whether they will like their presents that I just spent half of my student loan on.

There’s no escaping the fact that Christmas will be taxing on us all. My advice to all of those feeling the pressure, whether it be to decorate the house, cook the huge Christmas dinner for the relatives coming to visit, or simply to be prepared; slow down. Remove sky-high expectations, devour your roast dinner, play old board games with your children, take too many cringe-worthy photographs and circle yourself with your favourite people on Christmas day. It’s time to forget about what society expects of us and give Christmas our own meaning.

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