November has officially become the start of the Christmas season. Every year it gets earlier and earlier. Decorations are hung, songs are sung and TV adverts are all over our screens. And this is all before the 15th. There’s me thinking, it’s a celebration for the birth of Christ? Last year, Christmas generated a revenue of £78.7bn. But with tinsel and Santas galore, it makes me wonder; is there room for Jesus anymore? 

In 1653 Christmas was banned. Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan reigned as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, governing over England, Scotland and Ireland. During this time there were strict laws prohibiting anyone from celebrating Christmas. As a Puritan, Cromwell believed that music or decadence was an act against God. In 1656, shops and markets were told to stay open on December 25 — with soldiers patrolling London, seizing any food and stopping all Christmas celebrations. Legislation was enacted to ensure that Sunday was the holy day. 

As a nation, England has always been a Christian country and supposedly still is today. Despite this, in recent years there has been a sharp decline in the number of believers. According to the 2011 UK census, of all people surveyed only 59.5 per cent said they were practicing Christians. And yet, ever larger numbers celebrate Christmas each year. 

Somewhere along the way the lines have become blurred, and the true meaning of Christmas has gotten lost. The twenty-first century world expects us to be so politically correct, and if the slightest bit of disrespect is shown, people are horrified. So, why is it that Eid and Diwali are observed religiously (mostly by those belonging to the respective religions) but Christmas gets treated commercially, being celebrated by non-Christians? It’s become a festival of want rather than about the birth of Christ. 

As a Christian, I firmly believe in the nativity. However, every seasonal film I’ve seen in the last few years takes a completely different focus. Could it simply be that we’ve become a one-size-fits-all society that feels obligated to include all belief systems — even at the cost of traditional values? Or has the true spirit of Christmas now become booze and compulsive buying? 

This a typical theme that runs throughout Jingle All the Way. The film, staring Arnold Schwarzenegger, centres around the life of a busy working father on a mission to find a present for his son. Harry, Schwarzenegger’s character, wants to make an extra effort to make up for everything he’s missed in his child’s life. The irony is, his search for the coveted Turboman action figure keeps him away from his son even more! It’s a prime example of that all-consuming Christmas materialism.

The music industry suffers from the same problem. Songs are more focused on romantic affairs than Christianity. Take, Whams! ‘Last Christmas’ or Mariah Carey’s, ‘All I want For Christmas Is You’.

It’s not just the film and music industries that are exploiting Christmas, though. Every year marketing companies and advertisers work tirelessly to entice the nation and manipulate us into spending money. Not only do we buy things we don’t necessarily want but we become emotionally involved with the stories that are created. People wait eagerly to see the new seasonal instalment from John Lewis and look forward to hearing the Coca Cola advert.

Naturally, marketers see the festive season as a brilliant time to maximise profits, boost consumer loyalty and attract new customers. According to findings by the Centre of Retail Research (CRR), this year the average household in the UK will spend a ridiculous £821.25 on Christmas! With the country being in such economic struggle, this puts added pressure on poorer families — parents want to give their children quality gifts they can’t realistically afford. This is definitely not fair and potentially a way into debt. It seems even the most unlikely businesses are capitalizing this time of year; cleaning products are being specially advertised for Christmas, promoting the virtue of cleanliness at a time of family visits and decorating. 

So how do we change things? Education. In a time where religion is slowly slipping further into the past, we need to be teaching school-age children about Jesus. Whether they are believers or not, they need to be informed of how Christmas started. And why (potentially) 2.18 billion Christians worldwide celebrate it.

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