Titli’s Weekly Blog – December 2011
24th December 2011
I like Christmas. In my World it has always been a time for family. I can remember Christmases at home with my parents with Mum busy in the kitchen. After lunch we would either have a visit from grandparents or get in the car to go and see them. If I close my eyes I can see the white artificial Christmas tree that graced the hallway every year.
After I left home and started my own life I’ve always felt it important to be with family at Christmas whenever possible. I can remember only 3 Christmases when I didn’t see my family and two of those were when I was in Arizona. For the last 16 years since my father died Mum has spent Christmas with me.
Yes, I like Christmas even though it has never had any religious importance in my World. I suspect that in the UK at least I am not in the minority.
But I’ve also come to hate Christmas. Let me explain…
I’ll begin to illustrate the problem with reference to TV Chefs in the UK. In the week before Christmas it seems as though every TV Chef and their dogs have had at least one hour-long Christmas special. One of this gaggle of chefs had four half-hour specials broadcast over 4 nights. Another will have a four-hour “cook-along” on Christmas day. In short for most nights this week we have been presented with 2 hours of cooking programmes on the main TV channels. But that’s not the problem…
The problem is that each of them has given people their version of “The Perfect Christmas Dinner”. It’s not enough to just show you how to cook food, they also present you with the Family and/or Friends happily and numerously gathered around a large dining table resplendent with expensive cutlery and tableware. The sumptuous decorations in the ample dining room are clearly not from the nearest Pound Store.
The “Perfect Christmas” (or Christmases, as each chef has their own version of what is “perfect”) does not come cheap. And that’s the problem. They give people a vision of Christmas which has to be achieved; a vision which most of us cannot possibly afford. The message is that Christmas is a time to indulge, to aspire, to Spend Spend Spend.
At the same time we have been bombarded with TV commercials telling us how easy it is to get a short-term loan. These loans come with eye-watering rates of interest. Only one of these many financial institutions has been honest enough to actually say “pay for Christmas with a loan”. The message is that Christmas is a time to Spend Spend Spend (and we can give you the cash to spend now.)
The news has regularly carried stories about how much we are spending in the shops and online. We have had news stories telling us that a certain Monday is traditionally the busiest for online shopping, and that a during a certain hour of a certain day retailers will expect us to spend so many millions of pounds. The message is that Christmas is a time to Spend Spend Spend (because our economy will be in peril if you don’t.)
I find it all rather distasteful. Why are we encouraging people to spend more than they can afford for Christmas? And before you say it, being able to afford the “easy repayments” for a loan is not the same as being able to “afford Christmas”. Why are we giving people visions of the “Perfect Christmas” when we know that many families in this country are bereft with problems?
I know that Nostalgia is not what it used to be, but when I was young it was normal for people to save up for things they wanted. Loans were reserved for businesses or for people wanting to buy homes. But times have changed. We are living in a Get Now, Pay Later society – or occasionally a Get Now, Pay Never society when people decide to commit mass lawlessness, looting shops and burning businesses in the name of Fun. People can get loans in an instant to pay for their monthly bills (or more likely a night on the town). Why are there no role models encouraging people to be financially responsible? Why is no-one standing up and telling people that what they can afford is what they can buy with the cash that they have in their pocket? Whatever happened to the ideas of Budgeting and Disposable Income? I fear they have gone the same way as Responsibility and have been replaced with the ubiquitous cry of “I Know My Rights”
Christmas brings into sharp focus all those things I despise about the collective British mentality.
As for me, the gifts I am giving to my family this Christmas are very modest in comparison to those I may have given in the past. I no longer have a nice corporate salary to fall back on and I am strong enough and cynical enough to resist the marketing onslaught at this time of year. Christmas will be a little more austere than in the past, but by the Grace of God it will still be a family affair.
You can’t put a price on that.