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How I fell out of love with Christmas Consumerism

Has anyone else noticed an increase in needy promotional emails from their favourite clothes companies at this time of year? In the past week alone, I’ve received five emails from one company, each subject-line increasingly generous as they demonstrate their desperation for my custom.

“You NEED this dress!”, “Exclusive 30% off partywear for you Karen!”, “Hand-picked offers just for you, this party season!” Clearly, the ‘blinding lights’ of consumerism are everywhere at this time of year.

A recent survey found that the UK will spend £2.4bn on Christmas clothes that hardly get worn. The statistic demonstrates the shockingly wasteful practices in Britain today and it doesn’t sit well with me.

December can seem like one never-ending spending spree on clothes. If you consider the clothes you might need for various Christmas events, a Christmas Day, the work’s Christmas do outfit and a Christmas Eve outfit, before you know it, you’ve bought at least four new outfits for December alone.

I’ve never gone all out on a Christmas Day outfit but I have been guilty of buying new clothes just for various Christmas events and never wearing them again.

Thoughtful Christmas Gifts

Having said that, I began to fall out of love with consumerism about ten years ago, when I realised that although ‘stuff’ can be nice to have, it doesn’t guarantee meaning or happiness. I began to see behind the big promises and realised that consumerism means buying into an idea, a feeling, a lifestyle. And this can lead to consuming for consuming’s sake.

Now, I appreciate a nice piece of jewellery or a bottle of my favourite perfume as much as the next gal, but receiving a gift with little to no thought behind it makes me angry.

Last year I received a number of expensive gifts from a person who I thought understood me, really knew me, yet the gifts they’d given matched their ego only. I’m sure we’ve all received a gift like that; one that we know has cost a lot but is so far away from being ‘us’ that it’s insulting.

You might think my reaction is drastic, ungrateful even, but anyone who really knows me understands that I’m unimpressed by things done just for effect. I prefer authenticity.

For example, a friend gave me a beautiful handmade card last year that made me cry. The effort she’d gone into was so touching. Another friend made a set of bracelets for me and they were exactly my style.

Perhaps I feel so strongly about this because I put thought and care into my Christmas gift buying. Perhaps I’m too sensitive. Either way consumerism doesn’t impress me much.

What does Christmas really mean to me?

It’s not just the ‘blinding lights’ – the tangible temptations – we have to contend with at this time of year, it’s the entrenched attitudes around Christmas. ‘What did you get for Christmas?’ is the first question you’re asked when you meet up with friends and work colleagues. And I struggle to answer this.

In recent years I’ve asked myself, what does Christmas really mean to me? Does it mean mountains of presents I won’t use or ever remember? Or bankrupting myself to buy things for people I only ever see in December? Neither of these things are meaningful and I’ve come to realise it’s because they don’t align with my values of time, shared moments, experiences, new places, solvency!

I withdraw from the wastefulness of Christmas more and more as the years pass. When I’m on my deathbed I won’t utter the words, ‘oh remember that widescreen TV I got for Christmas when I was 26?’ Instead, I’ll remember the boxset marathon nights with friends when we consumed our body-weight in carbohydrates and stayed up until 2am.

It’s unlikely we’ll ever remember things, items, in isolation. Instead we’ll recall the New Year’s Eve when we wore a great dress to that party and stayed out until dawn.

Have yourself a conscious Christmas

For me, without getting too philosophical, Christmas means moments. Christmas means memories. That’s why I believe in my own more conscious Christmas. Note that I said more conscious, because it is a work in progress. This is how it’s shaping up so far:

– This is the first time in three years that I haven’t bought a new Christmas jumper. I don’t need to add another one to landfill.

– Rather than use my Christmas money to buy another winter coat, I’ve used the money to buy tickets for events next year.

– Where suitable, I’ve bought gifts from local or independent shops and eschewed online purchasing.

– I shopped my wardrobe for my Christmas outfits instead of waving goodbye to all of my December wages.

By becoming more mindful of my buying choices in other areas of my life, the seasonal sales have lost their appeal. I’m no longer dazzled by the promise of a bargain or money off something I don’t even need.

So excuse me if on Christmas Day I settle down for a lovely time with family, wearing my lovingly worn red outfit to open a few (hopefully) meaningful gifts under the tree, happy in the knowledge that my Christmas is more conscious than last years was.

Happy Christmas everyone!


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