Christmas doesn’t cost a thing

Do a quick Google search for a combination of these two words: “Christmas” and “financial.” Pretty much all the search results will have one thing in common: They advise people to act now, or to act in a certain way, to avoid the “financial hangover” that comes with Christmas. For families that are not wealthy, it can be a time of year when debts are accrued and relationships are strained as a result of financial difficulty.

Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts to me at times, when I look at the bills that I need to pay off, only to add with a note of despair – “and there’s still Christmas to contend with!” Wait – contend with? How did this happen? Christmas is the time when Christians remember and celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world. It should be a time of joy and (nerd that I am) theological reflection (what better time to learn about the doctrine of the incarnation and read a little Athanasius?).

Shouldn’t all this be a blessing to us? Instead it has become a contributor to poverty, family bust ups, alcohol abuse and domestic violence.  If you’re a Christian, there’s a special kind of offensiveness about this, a real disrespect and disregard. The celebration of the humble birth of the Son of God into a poor family, few gifts to speak of, little worldly acclaim at the time, has been transformed into a frantic orgy of spending, consumption, exploitation, greed and commercialism to the point where people will undermine the well-being of their family to take part in the gruesome game.

This is wrong in every way. Our children aren’t going to like it (but they will get used to it), but we’ve decided not to be a part of it. If you know us and might have been inclined to spend something on us, please don’t. If you really have to spend the money, buy a goat for a poor village in my name and drop me a line telling me about it. That’d be cool. But ideally, just don’t spend it at all (unless you were already going to give money to charity). Christmas was never meant to be about reaching into your wallet. It’s even less about lining other people’s wallets, people who get rich because of Christmas. The downside for others is that we won’t be buying them anything either. Instead of buying stuff with money we don’t have, wasting a good chunk of it by eating to excess and then clawing ourselves back to the state of affairs we’re in now, we’re doing something else. We’re going to celebrate Christmas. Feel free to do likewise.

Oh, and visit http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/

Merry Christmas

Glenn Peoples

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10 thoughts on “Christmas doesn’t cost a thing

  1. Heya Glenn, I stopped participating in the Christmas money-glut phase about six years ago, and it is the best decision I made. If I want to buy someone a gift, I do so at some random time during the year or on THEIR birthday.

  2. Somewhere I remember being told that this has partly to do with the relationship between the celebration of Christmas and the celebration of Saturnalia in the Roman period. Saturnalia apparently involved partying and gift-giving. Do you have any information about that?

    (Note: I am NOT suggesting any sort of “Christ-myth” nonsense, but merely that some pagan practices crept into the Church one way or another over the centuries, whether as a triumphal take-over of conquered pagan culture, or as a form of syncretism)

  3. You must have read Lewis’ piece on Christmas (celebrated by Christians) vs. Exmas (celebrated by everyone else, and sometimes Christians…). Great stuff. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my mother one year saying that she was ‘beginning to hate Christmas’ after a period of particular stress over te holidays.

    My wife and I have agreed that we will never have a Christmas with our children that doesn’t begin with the Christmas Story in Matthew.

  4. Ok, I know this won’t go over well, since I’m not getting on the bandwagon…

    But there’s nothing inherently evil or wrong about giving gifts on Christmas. You don’t have to, obviously, but there’s no reason to stop simply because others are excessive. Just like you shouldn’t stop eating completely because someone else eats too much. I often think that a good example of gift-giving is infinitely more useful to people than simply not giving at all. (Sort of like eating healthy is a lot more useful than not eating at all.) This is just my opinion though.

    My family gives gifts during the holidays. They are so passionate about it, that one year when everyone was pretty much broke they decided to have a “Dollar Store” Christmas just so that they could give each other something. And there’s a long standing tradition in our family–because we’re all a little weird like that–of giving Closet Gifts* for Christmas.

    For my family giving gifts is done for fun and to show thoughtfulness and caring. It’s more that there’s someone who actually took time to think about you enough to get something than what you actually got. And often it was just about being together, listening to Christmas music, fishing the cats out of the tree and wrapping paper, laughing or groaning over that terrible Closet Gift someone thought would be funny to give, and seeing someone eyes light up when you figured out exactly what they wanted (even when they didn’t ask for it).

    *A Closet Gift is basically a used item that is almost new or in decent condition that you have lying around your house. These gifts are often humorous. One year I got toy Star Trek guns shaped like the Enterprise from my parents! (My Mom’s a trekkie! :P)

  5. If you don’t eat at all, you’ll die.

    If you choose not to spend money on gifts because it’s Christmas (obviously nobody is saying that gift giving is wrong), you’ll probably walk away in one piece. My concern, in addition to contributing to a culture of materialism at a time when that should be very far from our minds, is over the purpose of Christmas. Buying gifts for people is nice, but why make Christmas about it? If I used my wife’s birthday as a time to… I don’t know, call my friend on th other side of the world because I like him, my wife would have reason to say: “I don’t get it. Why?”

    Although for the record, people don’t have to get on any partcular bandwagon here for their posts to be appreciated. 🙂

  6. I buy modest gifts to people living under the same roof as me. Everyone else will get a Merry Christmas greeting from me 😀

    But I just read an article and I think I should’ve just bought gifts for the poor and needy, as what you do/give to them seem to be like doing/giving to God:

    “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” – Matt 25:40

  7. Last Christmas a friend gave us a “cheque book”, it had a couple of “come over for coffee when you need it” vouchers, some “games evening” vouchers and some “come and share a meal” vouchers. This took a little time to prepare, cost nothing in money terms but gave everything in relationship terms.
    Celebrate Christmas, give your love and your time.

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