‘Be careful what you wish for,’ aptly encapsulates the UK in the week running up to Christmas. With all the wintry weather, perhaps for the first time in a long while, people are not wishing for a white Christmas. Literally and metaphorically speaking Britain has come to a standstill as the snow has wreaked travel chaos.
As middle England gears up for Christmas, the Christian festival today is more about Santa Claus and mistletoe than about the spirituality of Christmas. In fact giving presents has led the Christmas period to become the most significant event on the annual economic calendar. The jingle bells chime to the ringing of cash tills as retailers bag sales in the busiest trading period of the year.
Christmas has now become for the most part a commercial enterprise with even Santa Claus’s red uniform being designed by Coca Cola. And today Christmas has gone global. It has evolved into a multicultural holiday celebrated even in non-Christian countries, with the UAE, a Muslim dominated nation, this year boasting the most expensive Christmas tree in the world.
It’s no surprise that the busiest trading period coincides with the peak period for advertisers as corporations exploit Christmas creating consumer demand through aggressive and manipulative advertising. The goal, as ever with capitalism, is to maximise profit. Any retailer worth the money has to sell more than the previous year.
Indeed, it’s not a hard sell when people are primed to indulge during the festive season – parties, drink, food and presents – is what Christmas is all about we’re repeated told. Consequently people freely spend what they don’t have on what they don’t need.
While spending will help to lift economic growth (GDP) it is based on false hope as the current economic crisis as shown just how acutely the western world is weighed down with enormous amounts of debt. What’s more, ever greater indulgence and consumerism has brought little happiness to peoples lives as capitalists attempt to discover the secret of happiness with new measures of GDP.
The most apparent manifestation of Christmas today is therefore the commercialisation of festivities. Glorification of God, at best, comes secondary to Capitalism’s glorification of money and has distanced Christmas far from the spirituality of Christianity.