Have we lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas?

Are we too concerned by presents at Christmas time?

Once again, we find ourselves in that time of year where we frantically search amongst the shops for the perfect gifts for every single one of our friends and family. The words, “too crowded” no longer exist in our vocabulary because we’re down to the wire. If we don’t find a gift now, it’s going to be too late and the thought of showing up to a party empty-handed is too much to bear. This, of course, is what we know as “Christmas”. It’s the stressful time of year where the burden of giving has come down upon us and doing otherwise warrants being called a “scrooge”. My question is: why exactly has it become this way? For me, forcing myself to buy gifts for every person in my phone-book is something I simply don’t buy into (pun intended).

Westernized society is so focused on material goods, and a consumerist culture, that we often lose ourselves within it. Forget the other 364 days of the year; this “culture” is epitomized in one single day – December 25th, Christmas Day. Whether you’re religious or not, the origin of Christmas is generally accepted as the birthday of Jesus Christ. I’m not going to go into whether or not this is a real fact, or just a mythical date, but let’s just say that for all intents and purposes, it’s Jesus’s birthday. What puzzles me is how Jesus’s birthday, and giving gifts to Jesus (because it’s his birthday, and the three wise men and all), somehow turned into buying gifts for every single person in the world. You can call me cynical all you want, but I just don’t see what the point is.

Consumerism is quite literally, consuming our society. Advertisements for shops and goods reach millions upon millions of people every day, and beg us discreetly to buy their products. This only gets worse at Christmas time. A time when companies attempt to guilt trip us by tugging at our heartstrings with heartwarming commercials that we love and adore. I’m not going to lie, even I was touched by the likes of John Lewis and Sainsbury’s, but the problem I have with all of this is why I have to feel obliged to buy something. If I want to buy something for the people I love, I should do it out of my own free will, and not because some cheesy and (admittedly) touching commercial morally coerced me into it.

Christmas, for me personally, isn’t about all the gifts, Santa, lights, and trees. It’s about family, love, and – yes – giving. You might think I’m being contradictory, but giving doesn’t necessarily mean gift-giving. It’s more than just giving material gifts. Many people do this already, but I just think that maybe more focus could be given to giving love and time, rather than giving material gifts. I’d say about 80–90% of students go home to see their parents for Christmas. That, in itself is a gift. It is a gift to your parents; a chance for them to see you after spending a whole term away from home. I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent, but as a daughter, the look on my parents’ face when I return home after 3 months to spend the holidays with them is more valuable than any look I’ve ever seen them make from opening a gift that I’ve purchased.

I like to receive a good gift as much as the next person and I’ll happily engage in Christmas festivities like tree decorating and Secret Santa, but when I take a step back and look at the hustle and bustle of extreme Christmas shopping, I can’t help but feel sad. I feel sad for the many people who have simply lost the true spirit of Christmas and covered it up in a blanket of consumerism. My plea to you this Christmas is not to stop buying gifts; if that’s your way of showing your love to others, then so be it. My plea is simply this: remember the reason why you’re buying those gifts, why you’re going home, and why you’re celebrating the holidays at all, because there is nothing worse than blindly doing what you`re doing without a reason. So this Christmas, think about the meaning behind everything you celebrate, and maybe you’ll realize, just as the Grinch did, that Christmas, “doesn’t come from a store”.

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