Christmas: A great thing, a giant con or something else?

What does Christmas mean to you?

To me Christmas is a time for family. It is a time for family to come together and celebrate being themselves, being part of a larger family unit. It is time to relax and unwind after a busy year, let ones hair down and have a good time.

I despise the commercialism of Christmas. I despise the insanity that is putting decorations up at the start of October in shopping malls, and all the fakery about being excited about Santa coming. I despise the horrible poppy versions of Christmas carols that get played ad infinitum on the P.A. system in shopping centre. Despite protestations to the contrary, all of this is all about $$. It is not about community, not about family, not about building a better world.

When I was working at Pak N’ Save, I despised Christmas and so did many of the other staff. It was a time of incredible pressure at work – do this; do that; can you do some extra hours – with grumpy customers, tantrum throwing children (and sometimes adults), harried staff and not a word of thanks from management. If the weather was bad and the fire alarm goes off in pouring rain, it was a chance to see people at their worst, which was perversely fascinating in some respects.

I deliberately write this with a bit less than three weeks to go before Christmas, accepting that from now until and including 24 December, I’ll be subjected to an increasing societal frenzy often known as the “Silly Season”, as opposed to the “Season to be Jolly”. This is the season of increasingly irrational people driven by all sorts of pressures. This is the season of people doing silly things, a spike of family violence issues. It might also be the “Sad Season” because of a nearly annual spike in people being laid off – I cannot remember a year unfortunately in recent times when I did not hear about staff redundancies somewhere.

The Silly Season is also punctuated by staff Christmas parties where people let their hair down, and/or Christmas dinners which are more civilized/more restrained and everyone is on their best behaviour – supposedly. They are great fun. I had my work dinner last night and it was a nice chance for my colleagues and I to have a lovely Teppanyaki dinner, a couple of drinks and an opportunity to mix and mingle. Unfortunately most years cannot seem to go by without hearing through the media of at least one Christmas function, normally the informal Christmas party, going awry, and of the consequences that followed.

Do I sound pessimistic? Yes. I try to be positive, but thus far, I have already seen most of the above symptoms being played out in public or heard about them through the social grapevine. Obviously I hope that nothing else in a negative way will happen, especially with all that is going on around the world. And it is in times like these that I have been inspired by stories of hope from some of the grimmest, bloodiest, muddiest times in the last 200 years – like the German and British soldiers who simply refused to fight on Christmas Day 1914 and played soccer, smoked cigarettes and let the other side clear their dead from the front.

I hope your period leading up to Christmas is okay and that you get everything you need to done without too much hassle. I hope none of you hear about anyone who has lost their jobs.

And when it is all over, enjoy the break until we have to go through the motions all over again next year.

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