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Commercialised celebration: Losing the meaning of Christmas

By Elizaveta Shchigireva Dec 5, 2022
Two shoppers walking along

As we are approaching Christmas, one of biggest annual celebrations in the UK, now is the right  time to reflect on what it really means and why we are celebrating it.

When you hear the word Christmas, what are the first things that come into your mind? There is no doubt that shopping, fairy lights, Christmas trees and presents are the most popular associations with Christmas.

Although the government’s Office for National Statistics recently revealed that the percentage of Christians in the England and Wales has dropped below 50%, Christmas still remains the biggest holiday in the calendar.

Let’s start off by defining Christmas. It is a Christian holy day that marks the birth of Jesus, the most important figure of Christianity.

Tradition gives way to consumerism

The word Christmas  comes from the Old English name ‘Cristes Maesse’ meaning Christ’s Mass so from that we can see that the definition of Christmas is actually in the word itself: celebrating the Mass for Christ.

According to the Christian tradition, the right way to celebrate Christmas is to attend Midnight Mass, a church service in honour of the Nativity of Jesus that takes place on the night of Christmas Eve.

It is also right to attend a Christmas Carol service, which celebrates the birth of Jesus with joyful hymns or religious songs.

Christmas is a time of charity, love and kindness  so people are expected to donate  to those in need and take part in voluntary work.

Although Christmas is meant to be a spiritual holiday, today in Britain it is mostly marked by spending money.

The average British person will spend £54,000 on Christmas over the course of a lifetime according to statistics.

Christmas has lost its original sentiment and became largely secular materialistic holiday with the main element of exchanging gifts on Christmas Day.

The ‘perfect Christmas’ trope

The overconsumption of goods during Christmas contributes waste to already overfilled landfills and increases the size of our carbon footprint.

This unethical consumerism should have no place during Christmas time as it is meant to be the season of doing good deeds for others and the planet.

The consumerist narrative has hijacked the idea of “family togetherness”. A positive depiction of Christmas always portrays a stereotypical  family having a feast around a dinner table in a decorated home with many presents under the Christmas tree.

There is an enormous pressure to spend on food, decorations, events and travel.

Families are often shamed and guilt-tripped into it, with people falling into debt to achieve the “perfect Christmas” that society has indoctrinated us to believe in.

Although Christmas may have become a secular institution, we should still  keep in mind its purer, original sentiment: goodwill to all and universal generosity, without unbounded consumption.

It should not be celebrated as a time of excess.

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