Not buying into Christmas

At the risk of sounding akin to the Grinch: "Humbug".
I'm already thoroughly tired of seeing advertising for Christmas products and December has barely gotten out of the blocks.

This year I came out as a fully fledged atheist. Observing Christmas, therefore, is about as ridiculous as celebrating Ramadan. I don't know about Ramadan but I do know that most of the people who get swept up in the 'spirit' of Christmas probably have little genuine regard for its religious significance in any case. The inconvenient truth, I if I might borrow from the sage wisdom of Al Gore, is that Christmas - Xmas as it is repackaged to avoid the Christ allusion for those folks who like their religious festivities 'lite', is that the festival is one of consumption.

This year I think it would be useful to consider the following when you are exchanging gift on Christ's birthday:

1. Make it useful. Forget about stocking stuffers. You shouldn't have to overwhelm people you love with rubbish to make their day somehow 'special'. If you think the trinket will go into the trash within days or weeks, then why bother?

2. Check out the packaging. Is it padded out to make the 'experience' seem bigger - i.e. that you are more generous. The rule of thumb is: the more packaging, the worse the product. Be conscious of how much trash you generate in the name of peace, love and compassion for humanity. I have seen sacks of waste being removed from family gatherings. The end of the driveway on trash collection day is not the end of the line for your waste.

3. Does it require batteries? Then it isn't a good gift. Your kids need to learn now that immediate gratification of some flashing lights and robotic/animal sounds isn't worth the hardening of the planet's arteries with wasted from disposable batteries. Make it a batteries not included gift season.

4. Does it mean anything? Is there anything of you in the gift. Anyone can go to The Warehouse or Walmart or whatever your local big box retailer is in your area and buy a cheap toy or knick knack but, as with the thinking behind brands, if the experience is interchangeable then it is meaningless. If your kids don't remember who the gift came from a day (or an hour) after receipt then all you have accomplished is to march them one step closer to being mindless consumers. It might seem an unpopular idea at a time when we have superabundance in the developed world, but gratitude is an important ideal. To be grateful for all we have is a useful notion to celebrate. I acknowledge that it is a part of the Christian tradition, that Christ gave his life in sacrifice, but we live in a time of crisis. Do we we want our kids fiddling with a trashy Transformer toy that inhibits their authentic experience of the world, while that same world is being ravaged by the effects of their unchecked consumption.

As an atheist every day has the same meaning. Without the need for beliefs about an afterlife it leaves one free to be thankful for this day and the next, if there is one.


As a footnote I thought it funny that TradeMe, New Zealand's equivalent to EBay has seasonalised their logo - with ornamental snow. Geography lesson: New Zealand is, largely sub tropical. In the summer (where December resides in this hemisphere) we go to the beach and enjoy barbecues. It looks like South Island farmers will have a tough season as drought conditions are predicted. The marketing team at TradeMe seem to have a climate change message they want to share.

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