Terry Prone: With the world falling apart around us, we're still willing to spend a small fortune making Christmas special. And we're dead right

Terry Prone

ACCORDING to a pan-European survey, we in Ireland will be the big Yule spenders this year.

We'll lash out more money than any other European country, other than Luxembourg.

Two little countries. Two big spenders. You can almost hear Merkel and Sarkozy tut-tutting: reckless spenders, those Irish. Totally broke and yet they're planning to behave as if Christmas mattered, in the middle of a recession.

According to the survey, families in this country will spend, on average, a grand apiece -- over and above normal expenditure -- on making Christmas special.


It doesn't sound quite so spendthrift, when you apply it to every family, because any clan with a couple of kids or more might reasonably be expected to spend a lot more than that, between decorations, a tree, the turkey and sprouts, presents, a few bottles of plonk and maybe a bottle of port for the granny.

In recent months, we've been afraid to spend any money on anything, lest Brian Lenihan's Budget does us more damage, which each one of us is pretty sure it's going to.

But, even if we face, in 2011, the bleakest year any of us has ever experienced, we cannot imagine a Christmas without a bit of a spending spree.

It's an essential part of being Irish.

The old churches were wiser than the new economists, anyway. Not just the Catholic Church, either.

Back as far as the Druids and further, they knew, those wise old guys and gals, that music and light, dance and song, and filling the air with the scent of spiced food allowed people to get through the rest of the harshest winter.

The puritanical advisers are going to come out in force in response to the survey.


They're going to warn people against getting into debt in order to have a good Christmas. And they're right.

They're going to remind us not to forget the essential message of a story about a family so impoverished that they couldn't even get into the equivalent, at the time, of a hotel.

They're right on that, too.

They're going to give out about those going north of the border or onto the internet to do their shopping, on the basis that this will not put money directly into our economy and may even endanger jobs in the retail sector in the coming year.

Right again.

Having heard the warnings, the fact is that most people are going to do whatever they can to reinforce their embattled families by creating the most potent reminder that family is where happiness starts.

They're going to enjoy the window-shopping, the lights, the Santas in the big department stores.

The streets are already getting crowded, the lists being made by people who have spent the entire year being beaten down by radio commentators barking on about missing billions.

What's the alternative? A grim Tiny Tim kind of Christmas?

Forget it.

This year, parents are likely to be more robust in their refusal to be blackmailed into paying a fortune for heavily branded toys when cheaper versions are available.

The one in charge of the cuisine on Christmas day may be satisfied with two vegetables, rather than the showoffery of recent years.

But everybody will work hard to create the unique magic of Christmas, best summed up by a six-year- old wobbling on a bright new bike on Christmas morning.

That will be good for national morale, and may provide a small kickstart to the economy.

We've already been visited by the Grinch, in the form of Olli Rehn.


We've listened respectfully to his views, comfortable in the certainty that neither he nor anybody else will steal Christmas from us.

It's too special, too central to what we are.

On Christmas Day, people on their way to Mass will greet each other with affection, warmth and hope.

Because that's what the season is all about.