Christmas is a time of giving and receiving, at least in the 160 countries of the world where it is celebrated, comprising approximately 45% of the world’s population.
The spiritual significance of Christmas may have been forgotten by many, but the practice of giving and receiving gifts remains. National economies have in fact come to rely on the boost this annual spending spree brings to retailers, and they publish figures after each festive season analysing its financial success or failure.
Many years ago, it used to be that Christmas advertising began in early December or late November. There was at most a month of shopping hype to endure. This year I saw a Christmas ad published in a magazine in August! The financial profitability of Easter will probably prevent it ever starting earlier than May, but Christmas promotions are certainly extending further and further back each year.
The concept of exchanging gifts is a lovely one, and hopefully this Christmas you’ll receive some gifts you really want and will give some gifts that are genuinely appreciated. But studies reveal that most people receive at least one unwanted present, amounting to a cost of billions of dollars worldwide. Many now practice re-gifting or selling unwanted gifts online, but even so, think of all the time, money and energy that is invested in creating and disposing of this huge quantity of what essentially amounts to clutter. And a large percentage still inevitably ends up in attics or at the back of cupboards, unused, unwanted, and gathering dust for evermore.
According to a survey conducted by Money Advice in the UK in November 2013, 33% of adults expect to start the New Year in debt because of Christmas spending, with 25% admitting they get carried away and spend too much, and 10% still paying off the cost of the previous Christmas. The intention is to make Christmas a special time, but at what cost?
Some people I know are taking a new approach to it all. They sidestep the stress of festive shopping by buying next year’s gifts in the January sales at the beginning of the year. This allows them to do it at their own pace rather than with a looming deadline, and they are often able to buy nicer presents for people they love than they could otherwise afford.
Others have joined schemes where you can donate money to a worthy cause in honour of someone you love. A number of charities offer this option, including tribute and memorial gifts, complete with card, e-card or certificate. This is one way to make sure that any gift you give will not only be wanted but desperately needed and used.
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