Changing attitudes at Christmas: Advent Conspiracy

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I had to make a trip into the city centre last Saturday, something I generally try to avoid on that particular day of the week at this particular time of year. The Christmas cards and decorations have already been on sale for weeks, but it's only this month that I've started to notice the explosion in the number of shoppers. You can tell they're shopping for Christmas because they're usually weighed down with armfuls of bags and look vaguely harrassed. Or they're carrying a list and wondering aloud just how many female relatives they can cross off it by taking advantage of several '3 for 2 at Boots' offers. Indeed, it's only a matter of time before stories about local authorities 'TRYING TO BAN CHRISTMAS!' are all over the tabloids like a rash. In Peterborough, residents have already been at war with the council over the Park and Ride bus services specially laid on for Christmas shoppers.

Since I got married we've tried to keep Christmas fairly low-budget and low-key. Admittedly the low-budget side of things isn't particularly out of choice so much as necessity. Christmas 2005 always sticks in my mind because that was the year I found myself out of a job on December 23rd. My then fiancé was in his final year of university and living off fish finger sandwiches (advertised fish content of 10% highly optimistic). In the pub that lunchtime, I was 'celebrating' my impending redundancy and chatting to a colleague about Christmas. I told him that Luke and I had decided to limit ourselves to a spend of £10 on each others' present that year. He was greatly amused and smugly informed me that he'd already blown £700 on presents for his girlfriend.

Everyone knows that Christmas has become 'an orgy of consumerism' for many. Whether you're a practicing Christian or not, I think the pressure to make Christmas about the buying, the presents, the eating and the Boxing Day sales gets worse every year. Last year I briefly came across the website for Advent Conspiracy and was interested by what it had to say. The organisation calls itself an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption and uses four points to illustrate its objective:

- Worship fully
- Spend less
- Give more
- Love all


Even if you don't celebrate the religious aspect of Christmas and therefore would prefer to focus on the second, third and fourth points I think a lot of people would admit that we could do with 'rethinking Christmas'. The way we focus on consumption. Spend money we don't have on presents for people out of nothing more than obligation. The rush for the sales after Christmas where we spend more money. There's nothing wrong with giving presents at Christmas, but Advent Conspiracy talks about the idea of 'giving relationally', loving our friends and family and giving them our time and our efforts instead, while remembering the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick by giving resources and time to those who need it the most. When the organisation was set up, it challenged the congregations of four churches to give one less gift at Christmas and donate the money they saved to those who needed it more - over half a million dollars was raised.

Advent Conspiracy seems to be US-centric although according to the website, people from the UK, the Philippines, Zambia, Liberia, Nicaragua and El Salvador are also supporting its work. As a Christian the side of its message relating to Jesus is important to me but whatever you think about my religion, I believe the concept of reassessing how we celebrate Christmas is relevant to everyone.

Things which have interested me this week:

Shakesville - Wow: discusses an article on Spike.com which asserts that female actresses are only good for as long as they're 'hot'. Then it's ok to lampoon them for being 'chubby', 'too thin', the shape of their chin and how much of a 'ho' they are, at the same time as calling for the end of their careers because they're 'past it'. Awesome.
The Enemies of Reason - Hmm...Remember This?: certain tabloids expressed 'outrage' at Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time last week, but any other week of the year they can be seen echoing his views.
Jon Henley in The Guardian - The Berlin Wall: where are the remains?
Liberal Conspiracy - Right-wing attempts to legitimise BNP policies: on public opinion vs right-wing blogs folowing last week's Question Time.

2 comments:

PhilH said...

Our family do Secret Santa now - nieces/nephews get spoilt rotten, adults get one present each. Much more civilised.

Christmas never felt like a relaxing holiday, always seemed to stupid to make it stressful as well, spending money on things people don't want.

Hannah M said...

This is the problem - people get so stressed over the festive season that i think it becomes something to moan about and hate rather than enjoy. I'd rather spend less, receive less and actually enjoy my holiday thanks.

 

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