As I clock in to work this Christmas Eve, a mixture of thoughts will occupy my mind. Will I hit my sales targets? Will I take home a cool couple of hundred pounds in commission? Will I achieve the ultimate bragging rights of selling the most expensive watch, or a dazzling engagement ring? The day will come and pass; then before I know it, 5 o’clock will come and we’ll spend the next two hours restocking the shelves ready for the next wave of consumerism to sweep over us less than 48 hours later. Next, we’ll spend a week relentlessly returning unwanted presents before hitting the pause button for another year while we wait impatiently for the cycle to repeat itself.
This cycle seems to be what a large part of our economy depends on. Retail staff work themselves into an incredible stress while the public fret over the minute details of the gifts that their relatives requested usually months previously. It’s an unavoidable consequence of this thing that we call Christmas. Don’t get me wrong – I won’t pretend that I’m not a sucker for mince pies, crackers, secret Santa, carols and the obligatory Christmas quiz; but I can’t help wondering if sometimes it all becomes a bit much, and we become blinkered to the world outside of our own lives.
Perhaps there should be a few other thoughts occupying my mind as I clock in to work this week. How many Syrian children will die today as a result of the Government’s brutal regime? How many British families will depend on food banks this Christmas? How many people will be lonely at ‘the most wonderful time of the year’? Will the Big Issue seller at the other end of the high street have somewhere warm to sleep tonight? These questions provoke much thought, but often we only come to consider them late at night, when all the shops are closed and we are alone with the remains of the turkey and Christmas pudding. I often wonder why this is. Do we genuinely not care about those less fortunate than us? Or is Christmas just so all consuming, that we simply don’t have time in our minds for anything else? I sincerely hope it is the latter, although I reject the notion that either of these is a valid excuse for ignoring the plight of many in our world.
I don’t want to depress you, or to somehow prevent you from enjoying Christmas (that is quite literally the last thing I’d want to do). Instead, I want to encourage you to think of ways to enhance your enjoyment of the festive period by giving something back to the community – locally or indeed globally! Whether it’s buying a goat for a community in Africa, donating to a local foodbank or inviting a homeless person in for dinner, we can all do something to share the true spirit of Christmas – the spirit that remains intact even beyond the hangover and the overdraft repayments. On however small a scale, we can all act to have some sort of impact. If we really believe that Christmas is more about community than consumerism, then let’s be bold and step out of our comfort zones to make a real difference this year.
David Rhys Cakebread is a regular contributor to Lucid.