Comment from Peter Saxon –
I was born on Boxing Day in 19… nevermind.
Friends feigned pity for me. ‘Poor you,’ they’d say, ‘you only get one present.’ Actually, my parents went out of their way to make sure I got two sets of gifts. When Santa finally came through with the electric train set I’d always wished for, I got one box clearly marked Merry Xmas (formerly known as Twittermas) containing the tracks and transformer, and another marked Happy Birthday with the engine and rolling stock. And two completely different cards. Neither of which I bothered to read.
Still, I figured that’s not a bad haul for a kid whose parents professed no religion or belief in Jesus as the son of God. Nonetheless, they did believe that if Christ, real or imagined, was the kind and gentle soul as described in the bible – one who championed, the poor, the meek, the sick, the merciful and the peacemakers – then what could be wrong with celebrating the goodwill conveyed in His message?
So it was, year after year, we’d embrace the Christmas spirit, as did most other Australians. We sang along with Carrols by Candlelight, decorated the Christmas tree, exchanged gifts with friends and neighbours and volunteered to help feed the homeless on Christmas Day. Yet, we drew the line at going to church. Divinity just isn’t our thing.
Christmas, of course, has been much more than a religious festival reserved for Christians. It’s also been a gold mine for retailers and the media that carries their ads – much to the consternation of many regular churchgoers who felt that the true meaning of Christmas was being lost in the quest for sales. Really?
I’d argue that the sheer volume of “Christmas” mentions in the majority of ads in the six weeks leading up to December 25 was helping to keep the “brand” alive as the biggest national event of the year. I doubt that the commercialisation of Christmas would lessen the faith of true Christians in Christ. Nor would it inhibit the recruitment of others.
I don’t believe that the plethora of Christmas shopping ads impedes Christ’s central message of love, peace and hope. Free from politicisation, it’s a universal message that can and does appeal to Christians along with those of other faiths as well as non-believers like me. For a brief time, over Christmas at least, it can get most of us on the same page – if not exactly singing from the same hymn book, so to speak.
Sadly, those times, along with this debate over commercialisation of Christmas look like coming to an end soon – if they haven’t already.
Latest reports suggest that retail revenues for December, to date, are significantly down on last year and last month. Of course, much of that can be blamed on high interest rates and tight personal budgets. At some point next year, though, rates will start to fall again and consumer spending will rise. But not necessarily for Christmas.
The goal posts started to shift with the introduction of the Boxing Day Sale many years ago. It seemed a great idea at the time – get everything together that you couldn’t sell before Christmas put it on sale at a decent discount and thereby get two bites of the Christmas cherry.
In the end it backfired because shoppers quickly learned to save their money till after Christmas when they’d get more bang for their buck. While that created a boom market for gift cards, they don’t convey the same kind of Christmas spirit of unwrapping an unpriced gift that someone took the trouble to choose for you.
However, the biggest threat to Christmas, I believe, is Black Friday. By setting a Sale date in November in the wake of Halloween (an overseas import which, to my mind, is a festival that’s superfluous to Australia’s needs) it will circumvent Christmas and Boxing Day as the year’s biggest retail sales events.
Eventually, the big marketing budgets that once focused on Christmas will likely move to support Halloween – a macabre horror show that sends up the satanic as entertainment designed for children. If there’s a message in there, of love, peace, kindness or hope, I’ve failed to find it.
Heaven knows the world could do with more love, peace, kindness and hope right now.
As an avowed non-believer, my fear is that without the level of marketing support that’s been behind Christmases past, the joy of the season embodied in Christ’s message of goodwill, in which we can all participate, will be diminished and overtaken by a trick without treat.
From all of us at radioinfo and Radio Today, we sincerely wish you all the best the season can offer and a bright, happy and safe new year.
Main Photo: LIER, BELGIUM – MAY 16, 2015: Stained Glass window in St Gummarus Church in Lier, Belgium, depicting the Sermon on the Mount: Shutterstock