It amazes and amuses me how supermarkets start marketing Christmas as soon as sales of suntan lotion begin to decline at the beginning of September. Once we’re into autumn, and Hallowe’en has been and gone, it seems you can’t turn on the TV without being bombarded by toy adverts – or sofa adverts guaranteeing you can have your new sofa by Christmas! My youngest son came running into the kitchen at the beginning of October shouting “I’ve found it, I’ve found it!” I asked what he had found, expecting him to answer a lost toy, but no, he’d found the Argos catalogue, and spent the following hour marking all the toys he wanted for his birthday (in November) or for Christmas.
Maybe I’m turning into a grumpy old woman (though perhaps less of the old, I’m still in my 30s!), but I can’t remember Christmas starting quite this early when I was little. I also can’t remember my Christmas lists being quite so expensive, either, although I can remember marking the different toy catalogues with an ‘E’, and I usually added a puppy or a pony to the list. Father Christmas visited me in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, which predated the digital age by a few years. We thought we were very technical and ‘with it’ because we had an Atari and a video player, but there were no MP3 players, mobile phones or I-pads on my list, and even if they had been around, I think they would have been well beyond my parents’ means. As we struggle out of the worst recession in living memory, it can be very hard for parents to explain that Father Christmas can’t bring the latest gadget, or a walking, talking robot. At least my parents had the reasonable excuse and logic when they told me a pony wouldn’t fit on the sleigh, or down the chimney.
So, what are we to do? We are lucky that our youngest son’s birthday is 5 weeks before Christmas, so we can refuse to do much about Christmas until his birthday has been and gone. Both our children go to church schools, so they do know the true meaning of Christmas, and they also have a very good understanding of other religious festivals that occur at this time of year. When my youngest started telling me all the presents he wanted, I had to stop him and tell him that was a bit too greedy. He pulled a face, but I asked him if he thought Jesus would have complained that he had Frankincense, gold and myrrh instead of the latest MP3 player, and he burst out laughing and said no, of course not. Point made, perhaps. He then asked if Father Christmas could bring him the presents, and I got out of that one by saying that Father Christmas only brings presents to good boys and girls, and that if you were greedy, you weren’t being good. Touché!
I think that as parents we need to set an example, and show restraint, if we want to, and stick with it. I am going to go for quality over quantity this year – to try to buy or make presents that people will really appreciate, and am going to try to get the boys to make lots of presents too. I’m quite good with a sewing machine, and the boys and I make a terrific trio in the kitchen, so handmade biscuits and sweets from the boys will go down a treat with close friends and relatives, and will help them to appreciate that Christmas is about giving as well as receiving, and not just about a huge pile or presents under the tree that will be forgotten or discarded a week or two later. That’s the plan at least!