You can make Christmas commercial, but message is the same
I've always loved Christmas. Catching up with old friends and having the family around is special.
Yes, the fixation with phoney, feelgood promotions and jingles can be a bit jarring. I felt Dermot Bolger captured the sentiment very nicely in his Saturday article.
His story about his mother going to extraordinary lengths to get his dad home from overseas was lovely. The best thing about Christmas is that it actually focuses on families and the closest relationships we have.
We take them for granted. The fact that we can all be together, even if it is fleeting, makes it all the more precious.
There is no aspect of the season that has not been dissected and sold off for commercial gain.
But the sentiment of giving, sharing and caring is real for all that, and that more than anything else gives the magic to this unique time of the year.
The solstice this week reminds us all of the new light which they celebrated long before the birth of Christ. Jesus too brought a light into the world. Many may have fallen out of step with the church, but the beauty of the Nativity, the innocence and optimism that comes with the story of a child born in a stable who would redeem the world is powerful.
There'll be carousing, and bonhomie, and there'll be stress and bust-ups as the simmering tensions and stresses find a way to explode. But don't take those rows or those slights too much to heart. We are all just passing through. Which of us can say with certainty that we'll all be together around the table this year.
That is not something to fear. But maybe we should spend a little more time enjoying our Christmas by being present instead of getting carried away by Christmas presents.
C C O'Brien
Greystones, Co Wicklow
Spare the pets this Christmas
As Christmas day approaches, many people will be thinking of buying a cat or a dog as a gift.
Ireland has one of the highest number of pets on 'death row' unless they are lucky to be in the care of animal charities.
If people went to these organisations instead of buying animals from professional breeders, it would create more space in the sanctuaries and spare the lives of many animals.
Harold's Cross, Dublin
The ballad of Joe Soap
In the run-up to Christmas, the typical Joe who did not cause the financial crash or go mad is taking stock of his situation. He happens to have a job paying €26,000 per year, or a gross weekly income of €500. For starters, that does not sound too bad, or does it?
Out of that he has €75 of statutory deductions - tax, PRSI, USC - leaving him with €425 net take-home pay (reference Deloitte tax calculator). He then has to fork out €100 to his landlord for the weekly cost of his flat, thus leaving him with €325.
On his way home from work on pay day, he puts €50 of petrol in his car, hoping that it will get him through the week. While at the petrol station he buys two bags of coal to keep his flat warm at a cost of €38. Being the weekend, he buys a newspaper costing €2 and gets €20 phone credit to enable him keep in touch with family and friends. He can't afford to socialise or go on holidays so he feels that he deserves to treat himself to a bottle of wine for €10. That was an expensive stop for Joe, spending €120, leaving him with €205. He likes to think that he is prudent so he saves a set amount every week to pay for a range of bills in the New Year.
With that in mind, he puts away €20 every week to cover the cost of his health insurance, as he dreads getting sick without this. From past experience on driving his basic old car, he knows that the cost of tax, insurance, annual NCT and a set of tyres will set him back at least another €20 per week.
He also has an estimate that he will need to spend €300 - or €6 per week - on his car to ensure it will be NCT compliant, along with two car services throughout the year costing another €300, or €6 per week.
Being a compliant citizen, he is faced with the cost of a television licence and the water charge, along with an electricity bill, meaning another €25 is gone. So after leaving the petrol station with €205, he has to deduct at least €77 to cover those known costs, thus leaving the typical Joe soap with €128 out of his original €500 to feed, clothe and take care of his personal hygiene and to cover any unknown incidentals that could raise their ugly heads etc.
He does not hold grudges, as he is happy in the knowledge that so much of his hard-earned income is going on direct and indirect taxes every week to help pay the €3,000 per week salary and expenses incurred by his local TD, who is working equally as hard on his behalf to improve his situation.
He is also happy that he is playing his small part in bailing out those individuals and paying the political pensions of those who contributed to bankrupting this country, and who put him in the impossible situation that he finds himself in while they continue to enjoy the high life.
He also takes pride in the knowledge that the Government is depending on him and the almost other 50pc of the workforce in similar circumstances to help lift this great country out of the economic doldrums.
To his credit, he is optimistic in that he expects that if he lives another 100 years or so, he may be able to save the deposit needed for that three-bedroom semi-detached home that he longingly craves, and hopefully then settle down and rear a family. It is doubtful a woman would be prepared to wait around that long for even the prudent Joe Soap. To my dismay, Joe has decided to go a little mad in 2016 by becoming a gambler.
He intends to spend the €5 weekly windfall that he will receive as a result of the changes in the recent Budget on a weekly Lotto ticket.
Who knows, he may be able to get that semi-detached sooner than he thinks and that woman might be there waiting for him after-all?
Templeglantine, Co Limerick
Sinn Féin and anti-terror laws
I am surprised with the publicity given to the refusal of Gerry Adams to condemn Thomas 'Slab' Murphy for being a convicted tax evader.
He is just using the occasion to drum up support.
The younger voter has very little knowledge of what carnage the IRA has cast upon this country and the hundreds of innocent souls they have sent to an early grave.
Is it surprising to hear Sinn Féin is unwilling to support anti-terror laws following the Paris attacks?
Enniscorthy, Co Wexford