If you’re anything like me, it’s almost time for the annual panic over Christmas.
The, “oh crap it’s Christmas Eve, I haven’t wrapped any presents” kind of malaise, where I silently try to count to see if I’ve even got enough to fill my children’s stockings, because I’ve been so caught up with work and trying to see friends and panicking about catching Covid that I’ve all but forgotten about Santa – but they haven’t.
Perhaps I’m just the classic disorganised parent who favours scraping by on the bare minimum – but over on social media, it’s a different story. Another favoured tradition at this time of year has predictably hit, like it does every year, and that’s the “show off how many presents my kids have got under the tree” shots.
Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are rife with it – snaps of stressed-looking Noble Firs, weighted down with baubles and tinsel and (in my case – only in my case?) a hand-knitted pink Christmas prawn; while beneath the haze of fairy lights, social media show-offs flaunt piles of presents... enough candy-cane-covered boxes, literally, to give to every single child on a busy street, let alone a single household (or single child).
The Aberdeen Guardian shared a particularly good example – and alongside it, a plea which rings absolutely true: “Before you start posting pictures like this for Christmas, please take into consideration that.... some parents have lost their jobs and don’t know how they’re going to feed their kids, let alone buy presents for them.”
“Some parents are struggling to get bills paid,” the caption adds. “Some people have lost family members and Christmas won’t be the same. Some people are fighting for their lives! Christmas shopping is the last thing on their minds.”
I couldn’t agree more. I’ve saved up to get my kids a couple of presents each for Christmas, of course, so I’m not exempt from consumerism, but this kind of OTT consumption makes me queasy.
Kids simply don’t need so many presents – they really don’t. It’s a cliche but it’s also absolutely true: on my daughter’s first Christmas, she was more engrossed with the cardboard box one of her toys came in than the toy itself – a carefully-chosen wooden train set.
And, put simply, it’s obscene, isn’t it, to glamourise and brag about how much money you’ve spent, how your kids have the very latest gadget when so many can’t, and won’t, and never will; how many rolls of wrapping paper you’ve acquired – enough to redecorate Boris Johnson’s flat, say, twice over – when on the flipside we have research which shows that right now 200,000 children living in privately rented homes are under threat of being evicted this winter; with one in five renting parents revealing that their children know they are struggling to pay the rent, and one in ten saying their children worry about becoming homeless.
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What’s more, we’re living right through the uncertainty of the pandemic, facing unknown restrictions and talk of lockdowns and fears over the potential knock-on effects to child and young people’s mental health.
Most kids, right now, are likely more concerned about whether schools will go back in January at all and if they’ll get to see their friends again, any time soon, than whether the pile of plushly-wrapped boxes reaches the ceiling.
Kids don’t need hundreds of presents – but what they do need is sensitivity. An internet meme would go something like: “Your friends who can afford to shower their kids in gifts won’t see this, but the ones who are struggling to feed theirs, will.”
It’s time to get away from showing off, and think about others a little more. Isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas, anyway?