We’re only a week into December, but I’ve already wrapped a few Christmas presents. I’ve also ordered the pickled herring and other Christmas delicacies from the Swedish shop here in London as we’ll be staying home this year.
To the children’s delight, that means we are celebrating two Christmases: Swedish Christmas on the 24th and English Christmas on the 25th. But if they think that means they’ll get twice as many presents, they’re sorely mistaken. And true to my family roots, I refuse to put the Christmas tree up until a few days before the celebrations begin.
Even so, Christmas frenzy is upon me, and as I resign myself to the fact that I’ve already spent more money than I’d budgeted for, I can’t help to wonder, what’s the point of all this madness and compulsory merriment? What does Christmas mean to me? I am not religious, and I have a somewhat ambiguous relationship both to baby Jesus and Santa, and to be honest, I can’t wait for the jolly season to be over. But not wanting to be a party pooper, I’d like to try finding some meaning to Christmas for the cynical and ungodly introvert that I am.
“It’s about family,” my husband says when I ask what Christmas means to him. Yes, I can get behind that idea. Christmas is an opportunity to get together with loved ones. Generosity towards strangers and especially those in need is another feature of the Christmas season, and while I applaud charitable giving, I can’t help thinking that if we had a government that cared more about people than about money, the need for charity wouldn’t be so urgent.
Evidence that the prime minister has failed to deliver on her election promise of a “fairer Britain,” came on Saturday night when the members of the government’s social mobility commission resigned in protest at the lack of government action to promote fairness and social justice in Britain.
As the government continues to measure progress and well-being of the state in terms of economic growth, people across the country face the increasingly difficult task of securing adequate care for their elderly, ill or disabled family members. According to Age UK, almost a million older people will feel lonely this Christmas, with no one to care for them and a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals that nearly 300,000 more pensioners and 400,000 more children in Britain are now living in poverty than in 2012/13. Given that Britain is one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world, there’s no excuse for this rise in poverty.
What will happen once Britain leaves the European Union is anyone’s guess, but most analysts agree that it will do little to improve the quality of life for those already suffering from government cuts.
If you thought I’d conclude with a few profound thoughts about the meaning of Christmas, I’m sorry to disappoint. For, if I didn’t have children for whom Christmas is the highlight of the year, I’d happily forsake the jolly season for a month-long stint in hibernation. Preferably in a warm country far away from the Brexit madness and dodgy Santas. I’d make sure to pack a tin of gingersnap biscuits though. No one makes them like the Swedes.