What does Christmas mean to you?

By Nina Steele 

It has become customary to complain about the over commercialisation of Christmas. Each year, articles are written on the subject with many lamenting the fact that the core message of Christmas, namely the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ has now all but been forgotten. Even the then Pope Benedict saw it as his duty to warn Christians about this very issue as reported in this BBC article. But is this really about an increase in materialism or is it about Christianity being in decline in the West compounded by the fact that many young people do not find religion attractive?

It is a fact that we live in a different world to the one our parents lived in. Look around you and what do you see? Do you see pictures of religious figures? Chances are that if you live in the West, the answer will be no. What you see instead is the constant presence of celebrities. Yes wherever you look these days, you see pictures of celebrities and anyone can become one. This is the reality of the times we live in and the real reason why Christmas is not what it once was. Instead of worshipping God, many people are taking to worshipping celebrities. Yes it can seem rather depressing at times to see people with no talent whatsoever, except for being good at self-promotion having so much clout. But can we really begrudge them for it? After all, no one is being forced to follow them.

People are free to do what they want with their lives and if worshipping celebrities is what they choose to do then so be it. It doesn’t help that the Catholic Church has been tainted by many scandals of late, which has left a bad taste in many people’s mouths, mine included. I mean how can you have faith in an institution if you no longer trust the people who are meant to uphold its values?

Rightly or wrongly, celebrities are filling a vacuum and consumerism is what they represent. It is rather alarming of course, but if the past has told us one thing, it is that trends come and go. Yes materialism seems on the ascendance today but things will change as they have done throughout history. People will by themselves come to the realisation that conspicuous consumption never makes anyone happy for long, even more so if one has to get into debt and many people do. The financial crisis of 2008 was a wake-up call for those who were living beyond their means and the good that came out of it is that it forced many to change their ways.

I have to admit that not having children means we are in a unique position in that we as a couple are not exposed to consumerism in the way that those with children are. I was speaking to someone the other day who had just spent over a thousand pounds on her teenage daughter and from what she told me, this has become the norm. Parents feel obliged to buy their children whatever is in fashion for fear that denying them that will alienate them from their peers.

For us, Christmas is about the chance that we get to spend more time together as opposed to an excuse for overspending. It is also a time for reflection and recharging our batteries for the year ahead. Buying each other expensive gifts has never been part of our Christmas tradition. This is what Christmas means to us and whatever it means to you, I wish you joy and peace and the very best for the New Year!

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