That time of the year again

It’s on again. Santa is loading up his web page with gift downloads and Rudolph has his ‘Red Nose Blog’ open, ready for the big night. And the kids have been told about being good because Santa is watching their mobile phone accounts and text messages, which had better be under a $1000 for the week or you won’t win your bid through eBay for that present you always wanted: that latest whizz-bang gadget that interacts with a thousand people simultaneously and provides all the answers to homework without a hint of plagiarism. Don’t forget to Tweet Santa with your requests and tell him in 25 characters or less why you deserve something special. Of course Santa is a Tweeter. He’s worked out like the rest of us that Twitter saves time compared to reading all those long and boring letters with scrawling handwriting, kisses and hugs, and jelly fingerprints.

But just when you thought that the Christmas spirit had died forever you find that the credit card has been doing a few push ups and some light jogging around the shopping centre, training for the big marathon that is the hallmark of the silly season. Phew! I thought that tradition was dead. Thank heavens for the psychologists and marketeers that work out how to lure you into spending the GDP of a number of African and Asian nations in one crazy month. Where would we be without the rampant consumerism and the gluttony that dominates our festivals? Thank God for McDonalisation. We’d be completely lost without it. How on earth could we explain the weirdest concept ever devised of ‘negative growth’ without the idea of everyone having to consume more and more until we are all the moral equivalent of the biggest loser.

Without that, all we’d be left with are some rather antiquated ideas. Like taking lots of time out to be with each other, unconditionally; suspending hostilities and being peaceful; talking, listening and laughing; being there; turning off the TV and internet, and going out to play; tolerating Uncle Bob’s odd behaviour; being intimate for prolonged periods (yes, I did say that); squeezing sand between your toes and thinking of nothing at all; and giving. And wouldn’t it be nice if we could do this all year round?

I’d like to make a special plea for the last one on my list: giving. There are a lot of people doing it tough this year. A number of charities can arrange for you to make anonymous gifts to people who cannot afford for Santa to drop down the chimney. You can contact your favourite charity (see the Yellow Pages or there was a list printed in the local paper recently – I’m sure they will tell you of the list they published if you ask them) and target whatever group you think are most needy.

How about ignoring the hype and doing a secret Santa that involves one gift per adult in a family group (except for kids I guess) and then sponsoring a gift for a needy family or even a ham for the soup kitchen, for example?

There is something about giving when it really makes a difference that is enormously attractive in a world that appears to me to be increasingly psychologically unhealthy.

’Ave a great Christmas and New Year, stay safe and see you in 2010.

Dr Stewart Hase is an Adjunct Fellow with Southern Cross University and a consultant psychologist.


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