It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. The streets are filled with warm lights and swarms of people. The pavements are lined with Christmas trees, town centres and city squares are marked with Christmas markets and the sound of carol singers fills the crisp night air. People are supposed to be merrier, more welcoming, and less stressed. Yet although the streets reflect the Christmas spirit aesthetically, the same cannot be said for many of us Brits. As the years have gone by, the' rue meaning of Christmas has become somewhat lost. With consumerism on the rise and capitalism being as prominent as ever, Christmas has become a holiday that is associated with spending money and extreme levels of stress.
Capitalism and consumerism
Whether or not you are in favour of the commercialisation of Christmas, the truth is that capitalism is the ruling force of today’s society and avoiding its grasp has practically become impossible. To a certain extent, giving in to the pressure of endless advertising and buying material gifts is almost impossible too.
As shown in the graph above, even though there are current financial pressures on people this Christmas due to the cost-of-living crisis, the UK are still ahead of other European countries when it comes to Christmas spending. Whereas the UK are predicted to spend £82.2 billion in retail, Spain, for example, is forecasted to only spend £24.91 billion this Christmas. According to Finder, Brits are projected to spend £430 per person on Christmas gifts. Although this figure has dropped since 2021 due to the cost-of-living crisis, £430 per person is still an insanely high figure. This goes to show that, for the British public at least, Christmas has intrinsically become a time where we unfailingly buy into consumerist culture (no pun intended (!)). From the newest iPhone or Samsung phone, to the most luxurious jewellery or trainers, Brits seem to easily give into the overindulgence of consumerism, a trend which seems to be rooted in the capitalist nature of British society.
But this isn’t what Christmas should represent. Beyond the religious history behind the holiday, shouldn't Christmas be a period that incentivises people not to fixate on materialistic goods, but instead focus on how we can help those in need?
How to restore the 'true meaning' of Christmas
The true Christmas spirit should be based on the 'Holy Trinity' of Christmas values: Give, Help, Share. Christmas should be about helping those those that are less fortunate than ourselves and giving back to our communities. Christmas should be about spreading love and joy to the most vulnerable people in society, such as the elderly, the homeless, and refugees. It is a time of giving – giving your time, money or food, to those who are in more dire situations. Although helping those in need should ideally be something that we do all throughout the year, the Christmas period is the perfect opportunity to make a difference. It is a time to bring everyone together, rich or poor, sick or healthy; a time to be present for those that are in need of a friend.
There are many ways in which we can help others and give back to our communities. Your gestures can be big or small; understandably, Christmas is a busy time for everyone so we can all try to help in whatever way we can. For example, if you have any unwanted gifts you have received throughout the year that you have no use for, donate them to a charity of your choice instead of letting dust pile up on them. According to the Guardian, British people receive over £5bn worth of unwanted gifts. Even if you are not a part of this figure, you can donate any old clothes, electrical items, or furniture to local charities. If you have an old phone laying around that you no longer use, for instance, you can donate it to someone in need to to help them connect with their loved ones. As the saying goes, 'One man's trash is another man's treasure'.
If you would like to go the extra mile in helping this Christmas, why not volunteer your time at a food bank or soup kitchen, or gift a refuge parcel for survivors of domestic abuse? Many men, women and children that escape situations of domestic violence often leave with just the clothes they have on their back and not much else. You can donate £15 to Refuge and buy a family an ‘emergency parcel’ that contains toiletries, food, nappies and clothes.
Essentially, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, it's amazing to use this time of the year to give to those who need it most. Find out more about what is happening in your local community and see how you can make a difference. Instead of simply buying expensive gifts for your loved ones and overindulging in food and drinks, why not also spend your time or money on strangers that would rely on them even more? Let’s try and spread the joy a little further from home this Christmas.
Andreia is our Society & Politics Editor and a Civil Servant at the Ministry of Justice. She is pursuing a career in government and policy and is interested in foreign languages and cultures, travelling and politics. Her Instagram handle is @_.adcb._.