What does Christmas mean to you?


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.

Or perhaps the “Desperate Season” where people are struggling to support themselves, yet feel the need to somehow appear jolly and be like they are having a great Christmas. There is no hiding the fact that for many people Christmas is simply an unaffordable time of year. It is supported by the large number of people and double income couples needing food parcels because rent and other basic costs drain the bank account as soon as the latest pay cheque arrives.

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. With the exception of one, mine have all been great. 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.

Of chocolate and bunnies


So, how many people’s waist lines are going to grow at Easter with a chocolate overload? My guess is quite a few given how many people, despite it being in their final hour of trading for the day, I saw at Countdown last night with chocolate in their trollies. I would further guess that all of this is good if you are looking forward to seeing whether or not a suggested shortage of chocolate materializes.

Yes, it is true. Demand for cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate is at an all time high. The suppliers in the tropical parts of the world cannot keep pace, and in some countries that export cocoa, the suppliers are even resorting to illegal clearance of forest that is protected and clearing those parts for cocoa crops. People cry foul over palm oil, but I do not hear very much screaming over cocoa.

Three years ago there was a shortage of cocoa to make chocolate with. People were talking about “Chocogeddon” as a shortage fuelled by unprecedented demand on the crop in Africa threatened to choke supplies. Three later, there is a glut in Africa and demand is at lows not seen for years. The rampant consumerism that goes with it at this time of year and at Christmas is completely counter to what both occasions are supposed to be about – and why I almost delight in being happy when either Easter or Christmas are done for another year.

So, will I have any Easter chocolate this year? I have had Easter eggs this year, but probably not many more, mainly for weight loss reasons than any particular desire to cut back on chocolate consumption.

I imagine it must be a pretty tough weekend to be a member of Save Animals From Exploitation, which I seem to recall a couple of Easters ago chiding farmers for the huge numbers of rabbits they shot dead in Alexandra’s annual bunny hunt. I found S.A.F.E.’s ignorance hilarious on one hand and disturbing on the other. Anyone familiar with why rabbit shooting is so widespread in New Zealand would know that rabbits are a noxious pest under the Resource Management Act because of their high breeding rates, the fact that they were introduced and compete with grazing animals for vegetation. In doing so they expose the surface of the surface, which allows an all smothering mat of a weed called Hieracium to cover the ground. Hieracium is nearly impossible to get rid of and therefore poses a major problem on grazing land. It is also a noxious pest under the National Pest Plant Accord, which makes it illegal to sell, distribute or develop Hieracium.

Because of statutory requirements to keep pest levels at a predetermined level, farmers have two choices. They can either do the control work themselves or let a Regional Council pest control do it and send them the bill. To this end, the Great Alexandra Bunny Shoot in some respects is also an attempt at pest control.

Anyway, happy rabbit shooting.

The commercialization of Christmas


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.

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.