Avoiding the ‘c’ word PART ONE

Okay. Usually this time of year I keep my head down and my mouth shut. I don’t want to be the ‘bah humbug’ who spoils everyone else’s good time. But I’m sorry. I’ve had more than a gutful already this year and you don’t have to read it if it’s going to upset you. You have a choice.  For me, the choice to avoid ‘c’ is becoming ever more difficult. I do what I can and I’ve tried very hard over the years to completely eradicate all vestiges but it is absolutely impossible to do. It seems to start earlier every year. This year, long before St Andrews Day happened, the shops were already filled with the jangling that presages what seems now destined to be six weeks of utter indiscriminate c-like behaviour.

Also, of course I’m not having a go at the ‘converted’. It’s a general rant so don’t imagine that the few (happy few) of you who actually read this are the ‘target’.  As always, the people who REALLY need to read this will be the ones who never see it.  Here goes:

What does the ‘c’ word mean to you?  C is for Christmas (Christianity implied) but it’s also part of an unholy trinity in my experience.  C is for Christmas and C is for Capitalism and Consumerism.  I am not a fan of any of these. I don’t participate. That’s why I don’t ‘celebrate’ Christmas.

Following some very unpleasant childhood ‘c’s, I’ve spent all my adult life trying to avoid ‘c’ engagement. I’ve been to many extremes. For example in 2000 I went to China, figuring that in that Communist bastion Christmas (as in Narnia) would be non-existant. Poor foolish me.  It was everywhere. Jangling music in the hotel constantly and all the Chinese I spoke to were just amazed that I wouldn’t be with my family at Christmas.  I got the impression that they saw Christmas as two things. 1) a Western version of Chinese New Year and 2) a cash cow.  Because the economics of  ‘C’ were (and doubtless are) as important to the Chinese as they are to us.  After all, they spend a lot of their time making the things we spend money on for Christmas.

Oh the giving. Or should that be oh the buying?  Because the ‘c’ word seems to have lost its way mightily when we talk of the spirit of giving.  The ‘C’ season is the ultimate orgy of consumerism.  We may ‘give’ things to other people but it seems to me the joy of giving for most people is actually the joy of buying things (whether the recipients want or need them or not). I’ve tried for many years to train my friends and family (such as they are) that if they  really do have to engage with the ‘c’ word and me, I’d prefer that instead of buying me something, they give something. It seems to me that if you have to engage with the spirit of ‘c’ you should really GIVE. Give to someone who needs something. And give them something they need.  I’ve failed pretty spectacularly in this endeavour.

After a period of years of giving others Oxfam Unwrapped (or similar) they have just about got to grips with the idea that I don’t DO Xmas. But I fear this is simply interpreted as a knowledge that they needn’t expect gifts from me that are ‘worth’ anything.  You’d think that would be enough to stop them buying me gifts. No. They still buy things that they want to buy.  It seems that spending money on a ‘gift’ that is actually a charity donation is way beyond their ken. That’s not what money is for at ‘c’ time now is it? No, it’s so that the buyer can enjoy the unholy trinity of ‘c’ness and tell themselves they are doing something nice for someone else. Hollow laugh. Not one of the people who comes into my ‘c’ sphere has got to grips with the fact that actually the thing I’d most like to receive for ‘c’ (if I have to) would be the knowledge that instead of buying something for me they have given money to charity.  Or even given their time to someone less fortunate. It doesn’t have to be a money transaction.  But that’s way too far for people to comprehend, I accept that.  I’m come to realise my idea of ‘giving’ is never going to happen. The best I can hope for is to get nothing (which is good because at least no money has been wasted!) but the more usual scenario is that I get something I don’t need and probably don’t want. That makes me feel bad, so in reparation what I do is give money to charity myself to the value of said unnecessary gift. So I do their giving for them. I don’t know what else to do. But every year I become more bemused by why it’s so difficult for people to ‘give’ rather than ‘buy’.  Why it’s about ‘want’ not ‘need.’

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:   Don’t give to make yourself feel good. Give to make someone else feel better.Give till it hurts. And then give a bit more. 

I’ll be back with part two tomorrow for those of strong stomachs!


About callyphillips

3 Responses to Avoiding the ‘c’ word PART ONE

  1. Jan Needle says:

    i tell you what pees me off, cally. every time i try to leave a comment, wordpress claims not to know me, and when i go through the process of giving them a new password or whatever, they still refuse me. i wrote quite a jolly response. now, all i can say is bah humbug and merry christmas xxx

  2. Charles D. says:

    “The best I can hope for is to get nothing (which is good because at least no money has been wasted!)…”

    –Scrooge could not have put it any better.

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