“Christmas! Already? No wait, it’s just the shops getting ready for Christmas shopping. Christmas shopping? Panic, panic!” These were the thoughts banging around my tender skull as I nursed the Halloween hangover. Bruised and battered from all sides by essay deadlines and poor life choices, the last thing I wanted to think about was Christmas shopping. Yet as we approach the end of the year and Mariah Carey begins her annual climb through the charts, the deadline of Christmas shopping is taking its place among all the others due in mid-to-late December. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis it seems likely that, for many people, Christmas presents will feel like an unwelcome imposition on top of all the other stresses of the winter.
This may be felt especially by students, whether they live at home or away from their families, since college often does not leave people with enough time to earn a large amount of money. The vast majority of people who work during the semester do so part-time. On the one hand, those who live away from home are already dealing with rising prices of rent, utility bills and groceries. On the other, people living at home may feel guilty if they can’t save up to get something nice for the family they live with and may already be contributing to the family bills. Meanwhile, online articles and advertisements are thrown at us, asking why we haven’t bought Goop’s Asstray (yes, this is a real thing going for $80 — it’s an ashtray moulded by somebody’s posterior). The introduction of competitive pricing on Ticketmaster doesn’t help the situation either. It almost feels like companies are doubling down on price-gouging amid the ongoing crisis. This entire business is likely to exacerbate resentment towards the intense commercialisation of Christmas, which is not helped by how in-your-face the new Christmas shop facades are in the centre of Dublin. Already. In November. At the time of writing this, the first week of November, there is a Christmas tree in the Dame Street Starbucks.
“Giving somebody a good gift at any time of the year is about balancing consideration with price, but in a year like this, I think everybody is going to be leaning on consideration a lot more.”
Perhaps I’m getting too worked up about the commercial aspect of Christmastime. The difficulty with Christmas gifts is that we have to account for multiple people, unlike birthdays, which are conveniently spread out throughout the year. Our attention is divided, our money spread more thinly. But while the stress of giving somebody a decent present can make us feel like we have to go big, it really is the thought that counts (Boo, Cliché! Stone him!). Giving somebody a good gift at any time of the year is about balancing consideration with price, but in a year like this, I think everybody is going to be leaning on consideration a lot more. Secret Santa is going to be my modus operandi this year, since it requires a budget to be set anyway.
I don’t want to slag Christmas off too much. I’m no Grinch. This is essentially the first year back to a Christmas holiday without the spectre of COVID hanging over everyone’s heads. Depending on your situation, it’s exciting (or mortifying) to realise that this year we can celebrate with our wider families or groups of friends. I’d say that even if we all got lumps of coal from each other this year, we’d laugh it off. What the deprivation of COVID has shown us is that the most important part of Christmas and holidays generally is not the consumption, it’s the socialising. Maybe the real Christmas present is the friends we made along the way.