Don’t Worship Your Shopping List This Christmas

Graham Veale
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THE ELEVENTH MYTH OF CHRISTMAS – Christmas is a religious festival

Despite the pious platitudes about babes in mangers, wise men bearing gifts and ‘peace on earth’, Christmas is essentially an orgy of animal slaughter, conspicuous consumption, alcoholism, hangovers and, for many, increased loneliness. For the vast majority of people, the ‘meaning’ of Christmas is far removed from ‘the official version’.

 Humani and I can sing off the same hymn sheet at this point. I’m not sure how much humbug one person can bear, but if I hear another song about peace and goodwill to all men, I think I might smack someone. Instead of roasting chestnuts on an open fire, each Christmas holiday I struggle through shopping aisles, where desperate consumers battle for jars of Cranberry sauce and Brussel sprouts, as if the government had just issued a two-minute warning. “Conspicuous consumption” doesn’t quite capture Christmas shopping; weaving in and out of the lanes with my trolley reminds me more of the chariot race in Ben-Hur.

I don’t mean to be a Puritan: “Christmas cheer” should be a great good. We ought to make the effort to cheer one another through the dark and the cold with bright lights, rich food and mulled cider. However, each year Christmas becomes less and less a Christian festival; this is the age of consumerism; at Yule-tide we worship mammon. We all have a need to submit to something greater than ourselves. So, every winter, our society worships the gods of consumerism and self-indulgence.  

The secular gods of consumption and fame have left us with an absurd and infantile culture; Humani cannot blame religion for that! There have been more odious, more sinister secular cults – those of Lenin, Mao and Stalin. The religious impulse is part of human nature. Human beings do not get to decide if they will worship; they can only decide what they will worship. In a manger in Bethlehem the God of unlimited power and love became a gift for us. If we must worship, then I cannot think of a better place to start.