Lifestyle, United Kingdom

Chirstmas: Not a religious celebration anymore?

Millions of people worldwide from an array of social, cultural and religious backgrounds gather together as family, friends, and work colleagues to celebrate in the merry spirit of Christmas time.

Randelle Tanios

In a popular London newspaper an article titled: “Santa Claus is first in the line at Soho drunk tank” describes the events of the previous weekend of a London, West End Alcohol Reception Centre; causalities of individuals no older than sixteen, reports of a young girl found soaking wet and passed out in Soho. Another was of a 23 year old woman, who states: “I didn’t mean to get this drunk”.

Men and women are brought to this centre because of an excessive level of alcohol consumption: “This is London Ambulance Service’s busiest weekend -drunken office parties spill out onto the streets… In a six-week pilot running until New Years Eve, ambulances known as “booze buses” will take scores of patients to the centre rather than A&E in an attempt to ease pressure on the hospitals…”

When one comes across articles such as this, it raises questions such as these:  Is Christmas really the celebration of the birth of a King or is it an opportunity to excuse an overindulgence of appetite and materialism? What is the meaning and value of Christmas to  people today?

The majority of people will suggest that Christmas is a time of year where one can eat and drink to their hearts delights; socialise with family and friends through the sharing of gifts and entertainment. There are similarities in the ancient Roman winter festival of Saturnalia;   over 2000 years later the traditions of this Roman celebration are deeply rooted in the customs as its weaves a strong cord  around the modern day Christmas celebration.

The Christmas custom of exchanging gifts, feasting, partying and drinking has roots in the Ancient Roman winter festival of Saturnalia. The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion explains that is was a famous ancient celebration dedicated to the god Saturn with festivities that usually lasted for several days where “normal social rules were inverted. All business was suspended, criminals could not be convicted or wars started. Pleasure ruled. The time was spent playing games… eating and drinking.”

In a number of newspapers you will see similar articles that show the violent immoral and materialistic behaviour of the British public during this time of year; It appears that as time goes by, the fundamental purpose of Christmas, is gradually losing its value; A 29 year old female office employee from Hillingdon says: “I refuse to attend my office Christmas party; the year before I was appalled at the behaviour of many of my colleagues, those of which hold respectable positions within the company. I felt uncomfortable; I left the party a little over 2 hours. Last year I felt pressured into going, but this time round, I have made it quite clear that I will not attend, this year, or any years to come.”

People all throughout the world work diligently during the vast majority of the year; especially in today’s economic climate the pressure has increased as the workers are becoming less but the demands of those employed are becoming more. Many of us complain of possessing less time, as so much of it is spent working in order support a certain lifestyle. This then gives people less quality time, to spend with close friends and family. Therefore is it wrong-as it is only for a couple days- for families and friends to come together and enjoy one another’s company with fine food and drink, to be free of the restrictions and the responsibilities that one is chained to for 360 days of the year? No. However it cannot go ignored; immoral and over self indulgent behaviour are excused around this time of year, though such actions lead to many devastating consequences later. There exists a relentless augmenting enterprise of commercialism designed to make us feel that material possessions make us happy, that they contribute to our self worth and is evidence used to measure an individual’s success in life. Attitudes and behaviour such as this, does in fact weaken the true significance and meaning of Christmas. It is this frame of thinking that is under question.

The generation of today encompass an attitude that exhibits a lack of appreciation for what they have; rather, the value of a gift is determined upon the price tag.  Many youths- and older ones, to be fair- are ignorant to the  lives across the globe that have been affected, for either good, or for bad, in order for them to receive that item of clothing, technical gadget, or piece of jewellery. A father asked his 12 year old son to write a list of the presents that he would like to receive for Christmas. When he and his wife looked over the list they found that all the items came to a value of nearly £500, one of which was Louis Vuitton belt.

The Western world is renowned for its ubiquitous spirit of materialism it encourages; this of which is known to escalate during periods of religious festivity. Millions of people fall for the techniques in which businesses insidiously bombard consumers through marketing propaganda that claims to support the values of which the celebration purports i.e. “…it is better to give than it is to receive.” Carefully crafted advertising slogans such as; “Show mum you love her by buying her … this Christmas.” Or, “Give your kids their best Christmas yet by buying them …” alleges firstly, that love is shown by the exchanging of gifts; secondly the price of a gift equates to the love you have for the individual your buying it for and -not so surprisingly-, the more expensive the gift, the more you love them.

The website states: “…that modern marketing is built around pulling on human heart strings and play with their emotions”, which can result to a number of emotional experiences, such as feeling “…stressed, happy, excited, sad, joyful, lonely, depressed, elated…” Advertisements announcing the numbers of days left of Christmas shopping are found in banks, on billboard posters and splattered all over the internet. Radio stations have daily Christmas inspired competitions, offering listeners the chance to win money to spend towards Christmas shopping. Marketing strategies are targeted particularly well at young children and teenagers. Many parents feel pressured to provide their children with all that they ask for, no matter what the cost, spending less time with the family as they work extra hours to provide these material things; which means less time installing valuable principles, such as respect, honesty and kindness. On the other hand some parents experience extreme feelings of guilt if they are not able to give their children what they want for Christmas, especially when their child may compare what they have not received, to what others have received.

Christmas is an opportunity for businesses to rake in higher profits especially during a period of worldwide financial instability only to leave the majority of consumers struggling to pay back debts; strategies are becoming more alluring than ever before but they only thrive because there is a huge demand from consumers.

What would be the feelings of Jesus Christ if He were to see the ways the majority of people worldwide go about preparing for the celebration of his birth? It leaves one wondering whether Christmas has anything really to do with Him at all.

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