Picture the scene: it’s Christmas day, the children have opened their gifts with delighted gasps, family and friends have tucked into a fabulous feast and you’re all now settling into a game of charades in front of a roaring fire whilst snow gently falls outside the window.
It’s romantic and lovely and completely unrealistic. The truth behind it is someone (in our house me) running around for weeks beforehand, stressing and overspending horribly.
Cut to a week later and you’ll find a mountain of wasted food, discarded packaging and a serious case of financial guilt. Not to mention the long-term impact of creating our ‘perfect’ Christmas moments.
If 2018 is known for anything, it’s the year we all became more aware of the damage our habits are having on the environment.
Most of us ‘know’ that our rampant consumerism is leading to a toxic strain on wildlife, damaging our mental wellbeing’s and is entirely unsustainable as a society.
But, as the festive ‘machine’ gears up do we care enough about what we ‘know’ to really make a difference when it comes to our buying choices?
I’m going to hold my hands up and say that I’m guilty of seasonal over-spending myself, and, historically, I subscribed to a ‘why buy one, when you can have twenty’ mentality.
Driven into a frenzy by heart-tugging festive ads (which I totally love by the way – the John Lewis one is such a guilty pleasure), I’ve usually shopped for England by mid-December. Come Christmas morning there’s always been a mountain of gifts under the tree, and by early January I’m working out how long it’ll take me to clear the bills landing on the mat.
This year, feeling sluggish and anxious, I had to ask myself ‘why’? Why on earth has the Christmas message, one of love and hope, been so utterly consumed by this attitude that it’s all about the excess?
It’s not just the gifts – the food we consume could feed a small nation. Piles upon piles of indulgent festive fayre – the sort we only eat at Christmas, because it’s ‘tradition’, even though if we’re honest, we don’t really like sprouts and chestnuts are a giant pain to open.
If your house is anything like mine, half of the stuff that lands in the piled trolley in the week before the 25th ends in the bin the following week (except the cheese platter, there’s nothing better than a fabulously stinky plate of cheese and none of it gets left at my house).
The wastage is phenomenal. Even the tree. Is there any sight sadder than a once proud fir left brown and balding by the side of the road in the greying light of a dismal new year?
My sons love this tradition especially and it is so sweet that each year they still insist on having one, but it makes me feel sad to cut a living plant down just for a few weeks’ interior decoration.
Ask yourself, what do you really enjoy about Christmas? When we reminisce with family about Christmases of yore, I can guarantee no one is sighing with nostalgia over the 16 trillion mince pies or the 15 pairs of cashmere socks you bankrupted yourself buying.
If you’re like me, it’s the people-led traditions. The time spent laughing, arguing and catching up with family who have time in their usually hectic lives to enjoy one-another. The glow of candles and fairy lights twinkling as you battle it out over an ages old board-game.
I love the Christmas spirit and never want to lose those things, but without becoming a complete purist, which just isn’t my style, I don’t want to enter another new year feeling like the cost of living a festive fantasy is too high.
So, this year, I’m committing to at least trying to reign it in a bit. I can’t and won’t claim to be a total purist and I still want to have fun, but I’m only buying gifts that I believe the other person will truly love. I’m keeping the gin sours and stinking bishop, but not wasting money on ten tons of rubbish chocolate.
I’m going to play Christmas songs every morning and get out the old photo albums to laugh over previous years with family and friends.
I’m going to share kindness, not plastic novelties that no one wants by boxing day but that will outlive us by thousands of generations.
And most of all, I’m going to think. Think before I spend, think before I consume and think before I throw.
Hopefully, if we all do the same, we can reclaim a bit of what Christmas is really for, before it’s too late for us to do anything about it.