Monday 19 August 2019

Comment: How a little boy's Christmas wish should shame us and our excesses

When we forget how to enjoy, to savour and to relish things, especially treats, there is no longer any joy in them Picture: Doug O'Connor
When we forget how to enjoy, to savour and to relish things, especially treats, there is no longer any joy in them Picture: Doug O'Connor
Ita O'Kelly

Ita O'Kelly

If a little eight-year-old Irish boy can write a letter to Santa asking for money to give to the homeless, instead of something for himself, we the adults can and should take a little less for ourselves this Christmas.

Christmas in Ireland has become a grotesque festival of greed and gluttony worthy of the decadent days of the Roman Empire.

This excess is exacerbated by the fact that it spans up to 10 days.

With what is happening in Aleppo, the homeless crisis in our society, and those subsisting in direct provision here, it is high time we reinvented Christmas as a more low key and dignified affair.

The usual surveys that are produced at this time of year tell us that the average Irish family will spend around €2,500 to 'stage' Christmas.

The figures from the Christmas Retail Report 2016 are averages.

Many families will spend far, far less than that because they don't have it.

Many will spend way in excess of that figure.

I have noticed a recent trend of having your home professionally lit up, both inside and out, for Christmas.

Competitive decorating is back, it seems, among the rich.

It's pretty odious.

It has to be said that it is usually the women who 'do' Christmas and are largely behind how the money is spent.

Many sound women lose the plot every single year at Christmas. I won't be popular for saying it.

I met a woman in a budget department store recently who told me that she got new bedding and pyjamas for all four of her children which had to be put on on Christmas Eve night. Nonsense, frankly.

Year-on-year the spend is growing and the 'spread', as in the dinner, has become more and more elaborate.

Christmas dinner is a celebration, not a competition.

Really, who needs three choices of dessert after a feed of turkey and ham?

The veritable orgy of eating and drinking goes on for a full 10 days.

Thanksgiving in the US is a big family dinner that is done and dusted within a couple of days. There is no hassle with presents either.

This final week is when you will witness tired women with determined faces, manoeuvring giant supermarket trolleys, groaning with goodies.

But we all have to ask ourselves do we need that extra slab of iced fruit cake that nobody really likes?

How many boxes of chocolates are required by one family?

Is a case of wine symptomatic of decadence or sheer greed?

Also, the trend among certain parents to give children presents from both themselves and Santa is too much.

It is worth remembering that many children in direct provision here in our country will not be getting even one present this Christmas.

In early January, after huge amounts of wasted food has been binned, the 'detoxing' starts. In truth, it is gross.

We need to clean up our act and put the Christmas season back into perspective.

For some, it is a religious occasion. For many others, it is a holiday at home with family.

But we need to reclaim it and do it on our own terms. Forget the hype.

Frenzied Friday is what they are calling this Friday for the fresh food shop. Meh.

I know a student who is working at a high-end provision store over Christmas, carrying groceries to customers' cars.

He told me that those who purchased the most and drove the most expensive cars never tipped.

Says it all really.

When we forget how to enjoy, to savour and to relish things, especially treats, there is no longer any joy in them.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. If that child can teach us empathy, then we have learned something very worthwhile.

I sense that Teddy, the little boy who wrote to Santa for €100 cash for the homeless, has a bright future ahead of him.

I certainly hope so.

Irish Independent

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