Cash cow Christmas

Isn’t it a nice time? The city is decorated with lights, a smell of baked biscuits is in the air accompanied with soft Christmas tones. “Thank God It’s Christmas”, Queen sings.

Text by Ronny Taferner, photos by Ramon Mebrahtu

Christmas is known as the cosiest time of the year, focusing on love, family and peace. At least that is what it used to be like. But today, it has turned into a money machine since, as it’s the highest-selling time of year – permanently growing bigger. Only last year a total of a trillion dollars (that’s a number with 12 zeros!) was spent in America on Christmas. Cash registers are ringing and entrepreneurs are laughing. The message of advertisements and offers is simple and works: “Buy and you will be happier.” No doubt that with a new iPhone in hand and a stomach full of pork roast we are happier. Consuming is maybe after all only beneficial for the economy and doesn’t always make us feel as loved as they want us to believe. 

The real sense of Christmas, contentment and reflection on essentials, has moved into the background.

People want more and more. The real sense of Christmas, contentment and reflection on essentials, has moved into the background. Consumption and commerce lead to stress and depression. The pressure of society wants everyone to have a perfect family, to decorate the house, to buy gifts, to bake biscuits, to visit relatives… Those high expectations are hard to meet and caused by the marketing strategies of companies. These images we get thanks to companies are all made with one intention: to make as much money out of it as possible. Social media strengthens this effect since everyone shows a perfect life. 

Most people may get a warm feeling while thinking about the holidays, but that is not the case for everybody. Every fourth person in the Netherlands celebrates Christmas alone and psychological helplines are called more often. It’s striking that three out of ten want to help those lonely people during the holidays, but don’t know how to. In my opinion that can be easily changed by for example making a proposal to the municipality to organise a meeting for those who don’t have a family to celebrate with.

At Christmas, we meet our families and we come together. We visit the aunt, we never see during the year. We send best wishes to the father-in-law, we refuse to talk with for the rest of the year. And we have a brunch with our neighbour, we mostly complain about.

Christmas is often a time of hypocritical delight, depression and consumption. It doesn’t make us happier, in the way commercials tell us. The biggest present we can give the people we love is time. Because you never know how much you will still have. And you can give this gift during the whole year by the way – not just for Christmas.