It has started already, the overhyped wallet-sucking monolith of a holiday that is Christmas. The Christmas music is blaring throughout retail shops, the advertising for the do-it-all wonder gifts are filling my mailbox. Store displays are piled high with the latest things fresh off the container boat. In the US, people started lining up a week in advance for Black Friday sales in eager anticipation of trampling their fellow man to land the latest electronic gizmo. Canadian debt loads and the debt loads of countries throughout the world are at some of the highest levels ever. Yet our society still seems to think that it is a great idea to spend our way to prosperity by tacking on huge debt to celebrate a holiday that should have nothing to do with consumerism.
Do not get me wrong, I have always observed Christmas with my family and friends. Raised as a Catholic, I attended the church services, observed European traditions of Christmas meals and family gatherings. The Christmas I grew up with was not a consumer Christmas. It was a time to celebrate together the birth of Christ with those we loved. This was also the case in the time of my parents, in a postwar Europe with little more than the clothes on their backs and sunrise to sunset workloads simply to put food on the table. Christmas for them meant the traditional church services and above all, family. They did not exchange gifts, as there was no money for those types of things.
Fast forward to today and we are bombarded with advertising showing families opening box after box of presents. The pursuit of this consumer dream means that by the time January rolls around most of the “Christmas booty” will be stored away gathering dust and the hard reality of the credit card bills with their high interest payments will be rolling in. The past couple of years our family has made a conscious effort of limiting our spending and really looking at what Christmas should be about. We are trying to return to a more balanced approach to Christmas and to make it more about the traditional values that Christmas should represent. Therefore, before you don your bulletproof vest to head out to the Black Friday sales, we should take the time to reflect on what we really want out of Christmas, more debt and a temporary consumer high with a high cost interest headache or something simpler.