Tis the Reason for the Season

Words by Maeson (they/them), 22 WA 

Christmas

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Look, it’s me, your favourite Gen Z cousin come to ruin Christmas.

Christmas – a season traditionally centred around goodwill and generosity – has evolved into a playground for capitalism, a swirling vortex of consumerism that often overshadows its essence.

I hear you; this isn’t a new take. People have been ringing the Capitalist Christmas bells for a few years now. But it wouldn’t be the age of the internet if I didn’t feel at least halfway justified to join in with my two cents, or whatever it’s worth.

For a holiday whose (debatably) favourite tale is a poignant narrative highlighting economic disparities and the callous dominance of employers in “A Christmas Carol”, we really did a great job of transforming it into a commercial commodity for profit.

The story that once cautioned against neglecting the less fortunate becomes fodder for corporate profits, plastered on everything from coffee mugs to holiday-themed socks.

Ok, maybe “A Christmas Carol” was less of Charles Dickens trying to make an argument against capitalism and more arguing against personal callousness and misanthropy – but the point still stands that a holiday that prides itself on family values, while repackaging those values into painted wooden signs for grandma to hang up on her kitchen wall, is a bit ironic, wouldn’t you say?

We’re packaging love and kinship into easily consumable, commercialised products, forgetting that the essence of these values lies in genuine connections and heartfelt moments. It’s almost like capitalism stumbled upon this holiday goldmine and thought, “Well, this is just perfect!” And honestly, they couldn’t have orchestrated a better match if they tried.

Capitalism is killing us. And it’s using Christmas to twist the knife.

The drive for endless growth and consumption has consequences, from environmental degradation to widening economic disparities. It’s like the engine running on overdrive while the planet and people are left gasping for breath.

People are struggling to pay their rents, buy food for their families, and all throughout the year all we get are messages on how to be more frugal.

“Can’t afford a house? Save five bucks a day by making coffee at home!”, “Need more cash? Pick up a side hustle… you work a 9-to-5 and have three kids to look after? Work harder.” “Wages are too low for people to actually live on? Well maybe if you didn’t spend money on shit you don’t need you’d live better!”

Wait, is that Michael Bublé I’m hearing? Put out the Christmas messaging!

“Spend money on this kitchen appliance your aunt never said she wanted!”, “Get this overpriced cheap quality plastic toy that your kids will never touch after unwrapping it – you don’t want to ruin their Christmas!”, “The more money you spend, the merrier the season will be!”

Listen to me when I tell you, you truly don’t have to spend a dollar on Christmas to be doing it right.

I want you to know that I don’t hate Christmas. I loved our family Christmas events; hosted by my nan and my Grandma on the beach foreshore with cold cuts and Woollies pasta salad and half-burnt BBQ. Body boarding with the cousins I really only saw at this time every year and picking the prickles out of my feet after cricket matches on the grass amongst all the other families celebrating. Any event that’s purpose is to bring people together along the common thread of kindness and care – I’m there for it.

While you may roll your eyes at us young folks’ Christmas grumblings – don’t dismiss us yet. We might have our complaints, but we’re also sparking change. Gen Z are into sustainability, DIY gifts made with love, and sharing experiences over material things. Yes, we want to save our dollars and yes, we’ll debate the merits of online shopping versus supporting local businesses over the pavlova – but we’re bringing a fresh take to holiday traditions, we’re questioning the narrative.

Christmas evolved into a secular and cultural holiday, celebrated by many people of multiple faiths and backgrounds. It’s roots are in family connections, the joy of gift giving, and the ways we show love. Maybe it’s part of the human condition to celebrate around this time of year. But we don’t have to celebrate with our money.

Despite its commercialisation, Christmas still manages to bring out moments of genuine warmth, kindness, and generosity. Families come together, communities unite, and there’s a palpable sense of goodwill in the air.

So, is Christmas ruined by capitalism? Well, it’s certainly wrapped up in a shiny, consumerist package. Do I think we should get rid of Christmas? No. It’s about friendship, giving, and the magic of being together – who doesn’t like that? Do I think we should get rid of capitalism? Yes, … but maybe I’ll cover that in the new year.

 

Illustration by Aileen. You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenngstudio

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