Can We Ever Cancel Shopmas?

Something magical and extraordinary may be happening this winter; it seems that the Christmas consumerism monster is being tamed. It has been predicted that we will spend £200 million less this festive season and with it may come a whole different way of doing Christmas.

Of course that magical and extraordinary thing is the financial crisis, which tightens family budgets, and limits Christmas expenditure more than ever. Experian Footfall, which monitors shopper numbers said: “Government enforced austerity measures and an economy recovering from recession has seen consumer confidence hit a near 20-year low.”  So what does this ‘New Consumerism’ mean for Christmas? Does it beckon in a new kind of occasion? A more family-based festival? I certainly hope so.

The most common perception of Christmas now is one of tacky tinsel, tragic office parties and the nail-biting question of whether or not the X-Factor winner will make it to No. 1 again. Christmas has become the most ironic celebration of the year; driven by retail desperation thinly disguised as yuletide cheer, Christmas has become ‘Shopmas’ – the festival of shopping. Surely this is ridiculous; should Christmas not be the antidote to consumerism?

We’ve forgotten so much of what it really is; the smell of cinnamon and gingerbread, spending time with long-lost family, snuggling up beside a fire to watch a black and white film, the magic of Christmas – and the complete opposite to ‘Shopmas’. Christmas needs to be made smaller and perhaps this year it just might happen.

And yet I can’t help but be doubtful. There may be a slight retreat from the high-street battleground, but it’s certainly still very violent out there; in the midst of Black Friday mania (where $52.4 billion was spent) one woman even resorted to pepper spray to secure an Xbox, injuring at least 10 customers, some of whom were children. The festival of giving has gone too far down the line and has become one of taking. The danger and alacrity with which ‘civilian’ shopping is commenced has become too much for some, with many consumers now choosing to shop online. 15% more people planned to purchase online on Cyber Monday and Andy Mulcany, spokesman for industry body Interactive Media Retail Group, has announced that: “We expect £3.72 billion will be spent online over the next two-week period.”

It seems that although we may be limited in means to achieve our end, the consumerist mindset still has its firm grip on us; the summer riots left us in no doubt of the materialistic mentality that permeates our society. They shocked us into the realisation that merely having less money to spend will not dampen the hunger for our beloved ‘stuff’.

As much as we may dream of a white Christmas, it seems that every December we wander around in grey sludge, wading past dropped receipts and penny coins. For many this Christmas will be a more frugal occasion, but the sad thing is that many others won’t see the opportunity that comes with this, only the disappointment. For these, a more prudent Christmas will be its ruin, not its making; Christmas really will be cancelled. Indeed, what sort of substitute is ‘quality family time’ compared to those precious presents? It seems the lights of Oxford Street are burning as brightly as ever, with the materialistic urges that drive our society proving to be insatiable, in spite of the austerity measures it is doused with.

So come on everyone, we don’t have much, but why don’t we spend what we do have? Why should we let a little money problem stop us from having the sort of Christmas we always have? After all ‘tis the season to be jolly and that is what being jolly is all about…isn’t it?

Chloe Wenman

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