I'm not anti-Christmas. That is, I'm not anti-Christmas as in it being used as a public holiday and for family get-togethers. Having been a life-long atheist I do still feel a little uneasy about using a religious festival as an excuse to 'eat, drink and be merry' - I don't subscribe to the Dawkin's school of belittling believers. I respect one's right to adhere to a belief system of choice. How and when the marketing people turned the birth of Jesus into a reason to put on weight, get pissed and waste lots of money I'm not sure, but they've done a good job in brainwashing us to do so.
When our girls were little ones during the 1990s, we too fell into the consumer trap. We must have spent hours trying to hunt down the most wanted toys (this was pre-Internet) and joined in the obscene overspending on everything from gifts, food, drink, decorations, trees, crackers.... and making sure that we had those extra little things that you cannot do without at Christmas, which ironically still remained unopened and unused in the middle of January.
Back then I used to go out running (it was two stone ago) using the same 2-3 mile route around our hilly streets. In mid-December I would play a game with the girls - to guess the number of houses that would have their Christmas decorations up. We would all commit our estimates to paper and the closest would win a prize (50p... I have always been generous by nature...) This game would not start until mid-December because until then there would be few decorations on show. How times have changed.
Today is December 3rd. I have just walked around my old running route. Every third house is lit up like Santa's grotto. Banstead can be seen from space right tonight! And not only has the putting up of decorations moved forward by a fortnight (is this also down to global warming?) but the increase in the number and size of said decorations is dramatic. When I was a lad it was a big thing if somebody had a tree in their window - now houses are festooned in lights of many colours and flashing sequences. Vast inflatable Father Christmases, Reindeer and Snowmen wobble on lawns, and this year there seems to have been a run on giant candy walking sticks, plunged into lawns to light up the route of front garden paths, like a Willy Wonka wet dream. This year the earliest private dwelling to 'deck the halls' was November 24th. I have seen one as early as 20th. Not that I keep a note of such things...
We could start a whole discussion as to the morality of spending so much money - largely wasteful - when there is so much poverty around the world. Do we really need a dozen lighted candy sticks? But then I have to concede that 20 years ago I would probably have been in a queue to buy them along with everybody else. Needs must, even if we don't need and don't have to.
But now I just look around me and shake my head slowly and sorrowfully at the needless spending, brought on by our inability to turn away from the manipulative advertising of big business. Bah humbug!!