December has hit, and with it a whirlwind of glitter, tinsel, fairy lights, and Slade. And I am in my element. Naturally paler than Caspar, I am a Big Fan of Winter, and in particular, I bloody love Christmas. It is the only time of year is is socially acceptable to go to the shop in a reindeer onesie, snowflake leggings, or jumper with a huge snowman on it (all looks this fashionista has rocked in the past.) The playlist becomes camper than a night out in Brighton, and here in the North of England you are pretty much guaranteed snow in December. (And in April, but thats another story.) Drink before eleven any other day, and you’re an alcoholic, knock back the Bucks Fizz for Christmas Day breakfast and its part of the spirit. Plus, it is one of the only times I am guaranteed to have my family in the same country at the same time, which is pretty goddamn special. I love it. However, there are aspects of Christmas which I most definitely do not love; insane crowds of people fighting down the aisles in Sainsburys, constant ‘one up-manship’ on social media, and heartbreaking stories of animal cruelty which seem to increase at this time of year. What do all of these things have in common?
Christmas, in many cases, has been reduced to stuff. It’s logical if you think about it; Christmas is a lucrative time for retailers, and they can begin raking in the profit as soon as Halloween decorations are off the shelves. Research has proven that our spending increases; there was a 1.4% rise in spending over the Christmas 2016 period, and Christmas spending is expected to rise from £240.41 to £243.77 this year; a seemingly small difference, but one which says a great deal about our attitudes to the season of goodwill. One aspect may that people are better off, but the main reason for this has to be the proliferation of stuff which has become such a crucial part of our culture.
It is no longer enough to simply have an advent calendar with a picture behind the door; now it has to be a top of the range, £50 advent calendar with tiny pieces of tat behind each door. While a school nativity, Christmas Eve carol service and a glass of mulled wine used to be the norm; now there are Christmas Eve boxes, Elf on a shelf, Christmas themed bedding, tea towels, paper napkins…all of which centres around buying and having, rather than experiencing.
I have lost count of the amount of parents I know who are fretting about buying their child more presents so that the ‘present haul’ looks bigger on Instagram or Facebook (see my post on social media for more of a discussion on this.) I went into a bargain shop a few days ago for cleaning supplies, and was actually overwhelmed at the amount of cheap plastic tat lining the shelves; light up letters, novelty gifts, all made from and wrapped in copies amounts of plastic. There is a constant pressure to buy more, have more, show more, simply to prove that you are ‘doing Christmas’ correctly.
Lets slow down.
The Earth is in serious trouble. Endless consumption of plastic is one of the biggest threats facing our planet right now, and Christmas only adds to the problem. Reducing the amount of stuff in our lives isn’t easy, especially with the rise of social media pressure, and the huge amount of temptation you see as soon as you leave the house in the festive season. But we can do something. By thinking more carefully about what we buy; why are we buying it? Do we need it? Are we just trying to ‘bulk out’ gifts? Could we get a better made, longer lasting version by paying a little more? Believe me, I know money doesn’t grow on trees: I am an eternal student after all. I have realised, however, that by making more sensible investments with my money, such as buying good quality clothing in sales or charity shops, I am actually buying less, and decreasing my carbon footprint a tiny bit by not contributing to fast fashion. I have also tried to invest in ‘experiences not stuff.’ I don’t know about you, but I remember the time I got my brother tickets to Wicked for his birthday; his excitement, the build up, the show itself, much more clearly than any of the stuff I got that year. My family are also careful to buy each other a couple of simple, but very much wanted, gifts, rather than a present for the sake of a present. This massively reduces waste, and ensures that we all really appreciate the things we have, rather than giving a cursory look and throwing them out in January.
I know this has been a bit serious, but it’s a serious topic. Time to take the pressure off yourselves to buy, buy, buy and spend, spend, spend, and make more conscious, careful decisions about the amount of stuff you bring into your home this Christmas. And look on the bright side, less money on plastic tat = more bottles of Prosecco! (They will be drunk quickly, and the bottles can be recycled, therefore they are technically recyclable gifts! 😀 )
Peace, love, and holly berries,