OK, so we all know that there are less than 100 days to Christmas. Some shops are already hanging their decorations and selling mince pies. My mother used to tell us of her grandmother who would not allow any Christmas activity until Christmas Eve when the tree was decorated and the family gathered to sing carols. In the morning, off they all went to church and only after that were any gifts opened. The Christmas Season was just 12 days, until 5 January which is the Feast of the Epiphany or Visit of the Magi. On that day all decorations came down and Christmas was over until the next 24 December.
The shops put up the decorations so far in advance to encourage people to buy all sorts of goodies which relate to Christmas – mince pies, puddings, chocolates etc. It is quite fascinating to see how the same sweets and chocolates appear at each festival with different packaging. Then, of course, Christmas music is played ad infinitum while more and more people complain that the season is being over-commercialised. But we do not have to ‘take the bait’!
Have you thought that it would not be so commercialised if we consumers did not allow it to happen? Every year we see messages on social media and in requests from various organisations to buy local, inexpensive, home-made etc and so many agree that it is a good idea but then rush around at the last minute and end up buying those expensive things that the shop owners so cleverly advertise. Most bargains have been taken already as well. Of course, we also allow ourselves to be persuaded by our children and friends that they must have the right make and latest edition of something. EVERYONE has it, Mom!!!! No, that is not true and we should really start looking at what would give lasting pleasure.
Have you ever thought of getting a pair of reading glasses for someone who needs them but cannot afford to pay even that R70. A good example would be your domestic worker who can no longer read or write as her sight fails. Those of us who are over 40 know that this is the age at which our ‘arms shrink and become too short’ to hold the book sufficiently far away,’ it is time to have our eyes tested. If that happens to those of us who have medical aid, what about the general workers? I purchased a pair of reading glasses for my domestic worker 2 years ago and you would think that I had given her a gold nugget. She was so excited at being able to read her Bible and the newspaper again. Every year,shops create food parcels in a bucket for employers to purchase for their domestics. I think they must get really bored getting samp and beans for Christmas every year. Why not create your own parcel using a pretty bag she can use afterwards and instead of groceries fill it with toiletries, sanitary wear and/or basic medical supplies which she cannot afford at any time. This is really appreciated as I know from experience.
Just this past week I created a ‘goodie bag’ of little things for a friend who was celebrating her birthday. She cannot afford any luxuries and this gave her so much pleasure even though it was made up mostly of samples I had received, some hand cream and a pretty candle. Total cost to me was about R20. The joy on her face as she took out each item was worth far more than anything else.
What about our own friends and families? Do we really need to go out and buy the most expensive? A couple of years ago my sister and her husband made various presents including a body scrub with what they had in the kitchen and it was the best scrub that I had ever used. One young girl (10) received 2 packs of playing cards for a gift and she has learnt to play a number of games and taught them to her friends as well. She said that it was her nicest present. I love to give books as gifts but they are really expensive when first on the shelves so whenever there is a book sale, I buy as many as I can which I then keep in the ‘presents’ cupboard for birthdays and Christmas. Add a special bookmark and it is a lovely gift.
What I am trying to say is that we can move away from the big commercialisation of Christmas by refusing to buy when we can create or put together such exciting things. The important thing is to think about the person for whom you are creating a gift and make it special to them personally. Obama’s rallying call for change was ‘Yes, we can’ and, as consumers, we can make this same call ours to break the bondage of excess spending.