Christmas. A time of joy, a time of happiness, a time of anxiety. If you’re one of those people that love the Christmas season, you’ve probably never worked in retail. Or had three separate Christmas events to attend on Christmas day. It’s the time of year to overeat, overspend and overcompensate. Once a religious day celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Christmas has now become a consumerism’s dream.
Still struggling to understand how Christmas could be anything apart from enjoyable? I’ll give you a little run down of how I spent my Christmas this year…
Christmas Eve was at my Dad’s house. After working eight hours serving the lovely, festive people that Christmas brings to shopping centres (yes that would be sarcasm you hear) I came home to my house full of family, awkwardly trying to help in our overcrowded kitchen. A few games of monopoly, a two-course meal, and two hours of carols later the Christmas Eve festivities were over – we all needed our rest for Christmas day of course. It all started again at 730am with the annual present giving, my little cousin waking up at 6am to see what Santa brought. With wrapping paper spread across the floor, hugs and kisses are shared, photos are taken and the word ‘receipt’ is whispered as I looked at my hot pink rose twin set. Really? After breakfast is finished – the first of many meals, it is time for lunch with my Mum’s side followed by dinner/dessert with my boyfriend’s parents.
Don’t get me wrong I love spending time with my family, and I love the fundamentals of Christmas; who could not love a day of food, presents and alcohol? But as you get older the holiday season is more stressful than a regular old workday. My brother definitely had the right idea this year, getting his drink spiked the night before and sleeping for the whole of Christmas. Smart kid.
Half my pessimistic view of Christmas can probably be put down to working in retail. Whilst everyone else is on holiday break, I’m working the most hours I’ve worked all year. Then comes the after Christmas sales where the words what the f**k run through my head at last 40 times a day. I swear they call it the silly season because people lose half their brain, bank account and apparently their manners over the two-week period of Christmas and New Years.
Working in retail truly opens your eyes to the money hungry beast that is Christmas. The food and presents is all well and good, but the core of Christmas is undoubtedly consumerism. Wondering through the shopping centre a few days before Christmas, I saw hundreds of red faced people with shopping bags up to their elbows barking over the phone and rolling their eyes at the next innocent shopping assistant that tells them ‘Sorry we are sold out of that size.” I looked at them and thought Wow that was me when I had been Christmas shopping a few days earlier. There is none of the ‘Christmas joy’ people speak about. Just a whole lot of soon-to-be broke people with Michael Buble’s It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas playing in the background.
I have been known to go a little OTT with Christmas. I spend weeks planning the perfect gift, then finding the perfect gift, and then panicking the next day because it is no longer perfect so I must buy something else, and something to go with it because what if my boyfriend spends more on me? Should he spend more on me because he earns more? I’ll just buy him one more thing… $700 later and I’m too scared to look at my bank account… ever again.
I can’t help but wonder if we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. I’d be willing to bet my next pay cheque (don’t get too excited, it wouldn’t be much considering I am writing this from my holiday house) that most kids would have no clue that Christmas has anything to do with the birth of Jesus. I watched my little cousin rip through dozens of presents on Christmas, each entertaining him for a whole four minutes before moving on to the next. But if you asked him the meaning of Christmas I’m sure his answer would have been “Jesus who?” As I am not a hugely religious person myself, I won’t even begin to enter the religious side of Christmas that has been completely forgotten, but what Christmas seems to have been with in more modern times; family, joy, time of giving, time of thankfulness and all that other happy stuff.
Christmas seems to have become such a lavish affair with each year having to top the next. In a time that seems far far away today, my Nan speaks of getting one present at Christmas – often handmade, often a hand-me-down. Working in retail store that caters for kids I see parents piling up the toys and clothes for “their little angels” who are bashing each other in the corner of the store or screaming “BUT MUMMY I WANT THIS ONE TOO.” Now I know my mum will say this is rich coming from me, someone who has a colour coded Christmas/Birthday list (as my birthday is a few days after Christmas) but this year was the first year where I realised the presents, the money spent – it doesn’t matter. And it’s not worth it.
My thoughts are Christmas needs to come back to basics. I mean what is the point entering a new year broke, stressed and three kilos heavier? I am all for splurging on the ones you love, but there is a lot to be said for meaningful gifts, and a humble day.
Next year I want to avoid the curse of Christmas consumerism. I want to find the joy of Christmas I felt when I was six years old. I don’t want to anxiously await the day, ticking of the presents I’ve bought and calculating how I can buy one more gift and still buy food next week.
Anyone with me? Or am I officially the Grinch?