It’s around the time of year when people start max-ing out their credit cards and spending far too much time in shopping centres, all in the name of festivity, giving and the idea of Christmas. Christmas itself in Western Culture can have different meanings depending on your family/friends and your take on religion of course. Personally, my family is very secular and Christmas has always been about finally having the time to get together and see each other and exchange gifts to symbolise love… of course for others, Christmas will be completely different. However, despite the differences of meaning and understanding people have about Christmas, people seem to feel pressure to give, and give a lot at this time of year. As much as I am reluctant to link to an SMH article, it’s worth considering the point of the Australian Institute research it discusses.
Australians are clearly under societal pressure to give gifts to people they don’t want, and many people receive gifts they don’t like and will never use. The causes for this are complex and varied and I’m not going to discuss them here, but I do want to discuss ways to avoid unwanted and useless gifts. Although re-gifting unwanted gifts is gaining popularity, it’s quite depressing that people give meaningless ‘token’ gifts when people can buy gifts from places like Oxfam Unwrapped, Global Giving, and man many other worthwhile, secular charities and social enterprises which can change the lives of people who will benefit greatly from the 20/50/100 dollars people spend on unwanted gifts each year. Why not a Big Issue subscription, rather than pretending that another box of chocolates/socks/jocks/body wash is what we really wanted and what Christmas should be about. What does giving useless unwanted gifts have to do with symbolising our care and love for others? Shouldn’t giving be about more than the privileged people we live in comfortable bubbles with? I’m not talking about a Christian sense of giving to the less fortunate. I’m talking about an ethical responsibility to engage with people who don’t have the necessities to live, and taking action about this. What better way to spend money and symbolise care and love, than to show we don’t need ANOTHER damn hamper of smelly body things, and instead spend this money on those who could really use another way to access water/school/a safe place/reproductive health services, etc etc? I think it’s time the Christian charities stopped owning the moral imperative and high ground at Christmas, and that people who don’t identify with Christian beliefs create their own sense of social action and change through giving at Christmas (or the Holidays).