It was in early October when I walked into my local shopping mall to do a spot of shopping when what did I see? Contractors erecting Christmas decorations. Yes, Christmas decorations even though the fat man in the red suit was still nearly 90 days away.
I was disgusted. The commercialization of Christmas is nothing new, but starting the hype fest – one person sometime ago called it commercial masturbation – in October was a bit too much. Although I could not do anything about the decision to put the decorations up, I did resolve to buy all of the Christmas presents elsewhere as well as much of the related shopping as possible in other places.
The commercialization of Christmas ignores the entire Christmas message that gets taught in school and in churches – one of the few times I actually pay attention to something out of a religious institution. It reminds me of a story read to me by my parents when I was little about the Christmas message. The story features two children, a boy and a girl and they are asked about the meaning of Christmas. The boy answers about how he gets lots of toys and has fun with them, whilst the girl talks about the gift of sharing and the importance of family and friends.
It is also a very stressful time for a lot of families. For some who have lost loved ones through out the course of the year, there might be little incentive to have Christmas as the pain of knowing they won’t be able to share it with those they lost will be too much. For others working in low income jobs such as retail and service sector jobs, the Christmas period is often the most frantic time of year. Dealing with grumpy customers, tight deadlines in places such as shopping malls all the while having commercial radio reminding you every hour or so that it is Christmas by playing carols and other Christmas themed songs into the ground is enough to test even the most experienced worker in these sectors. For them Christmas cannot come fast enough, because once it has passed, they can relax.
Spare a thought for those working on Christmas Day. They might be Police officers making sure everything is orderly and that the only work they have to do is paper work. They might be firefighters hoping the bell signalling an emergency doesn’t ring, or St John Ambulance officers hoping their pagers stay silent the whole day. They could be Civil Defence staff making sure that if something happens – earthquake, etc – the emergency management office is read to go.
When I think about this, I think sometimes it would be a good experience for everyone to undertake at some point to spend a Christmas day helping at the City Mission. Just one Christmas Day. Not everyone can afford presents or to have a big meal with all the trimmings.