by Agnes a Paris
Sat Dec 16th, 2006 at 07:41:04 AM EST
from the diaries. -- Jérôme
I was pacing the streets of Paris this afternoon, painfully making my way the crowd of people loaded with Christmas gifs bags and looking stressful as they were about to take the most important job interview whilst their wife endures labour pains or had lost their 4 children in the forest without even having sought it. I was just taking advantage of an unusually sunny day; they were people on a mission.
It occurred to me that no significant economic slump had ever taken place during the Christmas break, and also, that psychological assistance hotlines were recording their peak activity at year end. A psychology student friend of mine told me whimsically that the shopping spree was a mere compensation for the end year melancholia. She conceded that parents of young children might be an exception, because only they have good motives not to wait the post Christmas sale and cannot avoid paying the double for the sake of the enlightening the kids' eyes at the wonders of Santa.
Okay, there is no friend, and this is an opinion of my own. I apologise in advance to those who might be shocked by my unsentimental approach to the Christmas debauchery of money, stuff that will be worn only once, gifts that will end up being exchanged for other gifts, or land in second hand shops, food that will prompt million of women into a 2 month weight losing program.
I was born a roman catholic in a country without chimneys - the People's Republic would provide for decent modern heating- and Santa was St Nicholas, who would show up the very day of my anniversary, which I found truly unfair. Christmas was about going to the Church, and New Year's Day about visiting relatives who could not make the journey.
From my childhood years, I do not remember of gifts going along with Christmas.
A long time later, my one-year old nephew, who had been duly spoiled on his first Christmas, was busy playing with the wraps and ribbons and not the 16 different items he had received, much at his parents and grand-parents dismay.
To me, as of today, Christmas is just another marketing operation. Well, we need one every 6 weeks, according to marketing gurus. So we get Christmas, Valentine's day, Easter, Mother's and Father's day, then the summer sales, marketing strategists still struggling to find something before Halloween, the time span is long but true, parents spend a lot on back-to-school items, and Christmas again. Did I miss out something? The mid-season sales, the rule of thumb being that mid season in London lasts the whole year. What about Halloween? French Halloween has evolved into a massive marketing happening, most people ignoring the tradition in which this celebration is rooted.
So here's my theory: the more the event is drained of its original, genuine meaning and purpose, the greater marketing advantage to be extracted from it. Caution, I have nothing against shop owners, Toys'r Us, HMV, Nokia, Harvey Nichs, the four Bees, Veuve Cliquot and marketing professionals. As I say, there is no comedy without a public. If I were in the retail business, I would as any try to make the most of buying binges. As often, I am being provocative on purpose.
What do we think about when our hangover is over? Good resolutions come in handy on New Year's Day. As good a cure as any for a delicate stomach.
The first year I was in London, my husband and I thought hilarious (and quite clever) the idea of Oxfam to offer a goat (or another animal) as a Christmas gift. My father-in-law never actually received` the goat, but it went to an African village. Warning, gift suitable for someone already bestowed with a good sense of humor.
But still. How many citizens of the global village actually celebrate Christmas? How many celebrate it as a part of a religious tradition? A Jewish friend of mine, who still lives in Poland and visited Paris a couple of days ago, was astonished at Christmas being taken as an excuse for a shopping spree. We can go shopping even when it's not Hanukah, she said.
So what do we exactly celebrate on Christmas Eve, Christmas day? What values do we aim to pass on to our children, even if we are agnostic, atheist or whatever the word.
What does Christmas mean to you? A tough one, I know. And tough times, at least for me, as Christmas is the opportunity to wonder "what did I do to improve myself, to make a contribution? " In the real world, Santa does not make any wonders, and gives no clues.