Free Christmas

Been thinking a lot about the whole Christmas spending spree thing as a reaction to a few events and campaigns going on at the moment.

My family has certainly changed and morphed in their Christmas buying patterns over the years, largely as a result of frugality rather than any particular anti-capitalist or even charitable bent (as the family grows larger, it becomes very difficult to keep up). Admittedly we now give money to charities on behalf of the person we’re buying for in a Kris Kringle type arrangement, but lately I’ve been thinking even further. Why do we feel the need to spend money because December 25 has rolled around?

The thinking behind the charity giving seems to be this: we need to spend some money on someone else at Christmas; the other person doesn’t actually need anything; therefore let’s give it to someone who does need something. Now the second two movements I have few problems with, but the first strikes me as an issue. And that’s the sticking point: are we just giving money to charities because a) we feel the need to spend money (presumably so we don’t look like cheapskates?) and b) we’d feel guilty spending it on ourselves? I mean, I’m caricaturing here, but I’m not sure it’s that far from the truth. Plus if the whole point is to give gifts to those we love, are we even doing that by spending money on others? It’s almost an even cheaper way of buying for someone – just give money – thus costing us personally very little.

Obviously the points against consuming are compelling, including:

* The massive ecological and environmental tolls
* The personal financial tolls
* The social and emotional tolls of materialism
* The very different economic ethics of Jesus

The main reason for resisting the idea of de-commercialising Christmas seems to revolve around social expectations, particularly relating to wealth and generosity. To put it bluntly: if you don’t buy for people, you’ll look like a cheapskate. But surely Jesus ethics put us squarely at odds with our society and its expectations? I can’t help thinking that we as Christians have been sucked in pretty well.

There’s also often a conflation of giving with buying – we often don’t consider handmade or re-gifted things as legitimate gifts because they don’t cost us money. This only further goes to prove that money is absolutely the highest value in our society – and how screwed up is that?

That’s why I think this is a fantastic idea. It puts some rules on what you can and can’t buy, and has well thought out reasons for those rules.

So is this.

And Buy Nothing Christmas is worth checking out too.

I just can’t shake the sense that maybe it’s best to go all out and just give up on the Christmas presents altogether. Then we might actually have some time and energy to focus on what’s actually going on here – what we’re supposed to celebrate, but actually mostly ignore, or give lip service to by turning up to church on Christmas morning.

Because what is worth celebrating more than God and humanity coming together? Or being expressed together more fully than has ever happened before or since? Our own connection to and participation in the divine?

Some detoxing might be good.

1 thought on “Free Christmas

  1. I’m torn here.
    I really don’t like the christmas commercialism thing and in terms of love-languages, gifts just don’t do it for me. Our family’s not the best at giving gifts that are appropriate or meaningful. My sister and I instituted TEAR gift cards a couple of years ago where we give our family goats or vegie patches or education, but really the money goes to charity. There are heaps of great ways to be creative with this when there is a feeling that you “have to” give.
    This is the tricky bit – if it was just up to me, then I’d sleep in on christmas, read a biblical account of the birth of jesus and relax in the summer sunshine with good friends. However, there were tears from family members (the wet kind from the eyes, not the charity fund kind) who were deeply distressed that they weren’t loved by me when the suggestion of a gift-free christmas came up again.

    There are heaps of issues here that aren’t appropriate to go into, but there is a point where I need to take notice of people saying “I don’t know how else to show you that I love you and if we don’t do this, then it must mean that you don’t care about me at all.” A habit of more than sixty years is hard to break, and my actions in this field do make a big impact on others. Decorations are things we can avoid without affecting others, but gift-giving is a two-way street and some people just aren’t free or equipped enough to let go of it.
    I kind of think it’s a bit like the incarnation – God going “well, they sure aren’t getting it with me hanging around here being pure and holy…maybe I’ll just have to get into their culture and live it in new and subversive ways…”

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