Thursday, November 10, 2011

Evacuate Christmas-decorated shopping centres

We have a new Christmas tradition in our family. It's called criticising shopping centres for putting their Christmas decorations up too early. I do it. My kids have started doing it. And I noticed the other day on Facebook that my mum is doing it. It's great to have an activity the whole family can participate in together at Christmastime.

But then today I thought why are the early Christmas decorations in shopping centres such a big deal that I feel the need to have a whinge about it every year? I mean, it's just one place. There are no Christmas decorations at school, or at church, or in the street, or in the park, or at the bus-stop, or in my neighbourhood or in my house. I could go on. The list of areas where there aren't Christmas decorations at the moment is far bigger than the places where there are Christmas decorations. Surely, I could put up with them for just that one place.

I suspect one of the reasons why they annoy me so much is because I see them as a sign of the commercialisation of Christmas. And that bothers me. It does. And when I see those Christmas decorations go up, I inwardly fume about the shopping centres attempt to (shock, horror) sell more goods.

And yes, I think that's a legitimate thing to complain about. We buy enough stuff as it is. We don't need a holiday that is meant to commemorate Jesus' birth turned into not only an excuse for buying things, but the trigger for a guilt trip because we're not buying enough.

But it's a shopping centre's purpose to sell as much stuff as they can. That's why they're there. They're not there to make Christmas a joyful, peaceful, faith-filled holiday. Well not unless they can find a way to make money out of it.

But maybe another reason why it annoys me so much is because I spend so much time in shopping centres. Truth be told, I spend more time in shopping centres than I do walking around the neighbourhood or enjoying the local park. So I see those Christmas decorations all the time.

But if I really objected to the commercialisation of Christmas and those early Christmas decorations, I could always avoid the shopping centres instead of whinging. I could spend more time in those places that don't have Christmas decorations up yet. I could sit and home and make my Christmas gifts instead of buying "love" at a Target counter.

Because if it's what those early Christmas decorations stand for than annoy me, then I have to look at my own participation in the commercialisation of Christmas. It's easy to whinge. But whinging doesn't change anything. The shopping centres are not going to start putting their decorations up in December, just because I complain about it. If I really want change, it's easier to change myself than it is to change an entity whose very purpose is to sell stuff. Shopping centres want Christmas commercialised. That way they make more money. If I don't want Christmas commercialised, then I need to look at my own actions.

Occupy is the buzzword of the moment. It seems everyone wants to use that word for their own purposes. The latest one I saw today was occupy roofs. It was trying to get people to put solar panels on their roofs. I'm supportive of the occupy movement but it does feel like the word is being used a little too often now.

So I'm not about to ask everyone to occupy shopping centres. That's just what the shopping centres want. Instead, how about we evacuate them. If the Christmas decorations and the Christmas selling and the commercialisation of Christmas annoy you (as they do me) then find somewhere else to go. There are plenty of places that aren't covered in Christmas decorations and that aren't trying to make money out of a religious holiday. Go there instead. Or stay home. There's no rule that says we have to constantly be surrounded by Christmas decorations in November. We only see them if we choose to be in places that have them up. 

And if we do choose to evacuate shopping centres in November, we buy less things - which is better on our pocket and better on the planet. And if the shopping centres lose money out of it, maybe they'll have less money to spend on Christmas decorations next year. 

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