OPINION

The stress of Christmas

The endless talk about the spirit of Christmas is fast becoming rather tiring. All the advice about how to resist the consumer mania and how to protect ourselves from the onslaughts of holiday stress, which the experts say is very bad for our health. In my very humble opinion, everyone experiences Christmas in their own way, as best they can both economically and spiritually. That is, unless they read magazines or watch television. Because in that case it is highly likely that even the most cool-headed consumer is likely to go into a nervous fit with all the pages and images of suggestions for the most glittering celebrations, the most miracle-working cream that costs only 500 euros, the gold-plated mobile phones and even prestigious automobiles. If people can steer clear of these advertisements, they won’t be in too much trouble, since there is no way the average wage-earner, for example, would ever consider buying a gift that costs the equivalent of one whole salary. And if he did ponder the idea, he would soon push it out of his mind. Nor will someone who doesn’t believe in the religious aspect of the holiday, or who is unmoved by tradition, be excited by the spirit of the season or search around for the most freshly baked sweets in order to feel happy. It is probably clear that the vast majority of people decorate their trees because that is what their families have always done; they exchange gifts because they believe they will give pleasure. It is also clear that over the next couple of weeks, most of us will be digging deep into our pockets. How deep will depend on the size of the pocket. Certainly there are some people, not just a handful, who feel unhappy at this festive time. Those who are sick, who are alone, or poor or for whatever reason find themselves on the fringes of society. But these people don’t really need to wait for Christmas to feel unhappy. The bright decorations don’t intensify their pain, they just shed more light on it. Certainly all the advice about the holidays does not apply to them, nor to those who close their shutters when the city lights go on. That advice is for the rest of us, those of us who have average incomes. After all, the rich, just like the poor, have no need of such advice. The rest of us, however, are limited by the relationship between the desirable and the feasible. Anything else is just meaningless words for consumption.