Sunday, 23 November 2008

HOW TO REALLY AFFORD CHRISTMAS

Christmas is an artificial, commercial construction.
Yes, I know that sounds a bit "Bah! Humbug!", but I want you to stop for a moment, still your mind, quieten your surroundings and think carefully about what Christmas really is. Strip the whole concept back to bare facts and even if you're not particularly religious, our present day excesses at Christmas are unexplainable.
  • The 25th December (probably not the actual date, but never mind) is celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ.
  • We buy gifts for each other (just don't ask why - I can't say) to represent the gifts he was brought at his birth.
That, to me, is the essence of Christmas.
Now let's think about the Christmas of present times;

  • works and office parties from November onwards (needing posh frocks, hairdressing visits etc., etc., much imbibing and buying of alcohol, lewd use of the office photocopier, dodgy activities in the stationery cupboard, home truths told to the boss in drunken, rash moments, dreadful hangovers the next day).
  • Christmas trees (a Victorian idea begun when Prince Albert was given a tree by the people of Norway - no link to the birth of Jesus), crackers (another Victorian invention), Christmas cards (ditto) and carols(ditto)).
  • Shops full of all sorts of goods, cheap and tacky or large and expensive for us to buy for our friends and relatives (often with money we don't have).
  • Boxing Day (traditionally a public holiday dating from Medieval times when a clay box was opened and money distributed to lower classes) appears to have nothing to do with Christmas.
  • Mince pies - well, they do have a tenuous link to Jesus ( the Crusaders brought back spices from the Holy Land and deemed it appropriate to eat a pie containing these spices, as they came from the place of Jesus's birth).
  • Nativity plays at school and Nativity scenes (although rare) are a reminder of what Christmas is all about.
  • Endless advertising on TV, in magazines, on the internet, bus shelters, billboards, buses - everywhere, to instruct us to buy, buy, buy and persuade us that a "stocking filler" really should be a diamond watch or a pair of Jimmy Choos.
  • Huge tins of cheap chocolates - NO!
  • Turkey dinners - dates from Tudor times as Henry VIII was the first person to eat turkey on Christmas day!
  • Bottles and bottles of booze, satsumas, nuts, pickled onions etc., etc. - sorry, can't find any connection to Jesus.
  • Christmas Stockings and Santa Clause have more to do with Jesus than you may have thought - they originate with Saint Nicholas in the third century selling his possessions and helping the poor (as directed by Jesus) and with gifts of gold coins thrown through windows that landed in stockings and shoes!
  • Christmas pudding - hmmm, I don't think so.
  • A White Christmas (Day) - two in 1938 and 1976. There are no meteorological records back as far as Jesus's birth - but I don't suppose, given the weather in the land of his birth, it was snowing at the time.
So, having run out of things to list, I'll tell you what I think really makes Christmas - and it's only one thing - being with people we love.
I'm not suggesting we don't give gifts, or have a drink or two, or eat a little more than usual - just that we curb our spending and think more about what we give. Spend time with your family and friends if you can or get together with neighbours or friends who may be alone at Christmas, if you can't.
Your children will remember the time you gave them, the hilarious games of snakes and ladders or monopoly, helping you make paper snowflakes and sticky paper chains, decorating the tree or leaving a glass of milk, carrot and mince pie for Santa Claus and Rudolph, not the perfect table setting and the 3 course lunch you cooked for 15 or the new carpet you felt you had to have before Christmas!

Happy Frugal Christmas!

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