Welcome to today’s world of Consumermas

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I can imagine what my dear departed garden resident Aubin, the most famous of Jersey geese, would say, but I could not possibly repeat it in a family newspaper.

Partial as he was to not just a crust but also to a pint in the Tenby and a bag of sugar in the supermarket, when he wasn’t popping into the bookie’s for a chat with the staff, I am sure he would have made short shrift of any official attempt to deprive him of a snack.

Being a national treasure, Aubin had nothing to fear from the advent of Christmas, knowing that he could look forward to his favourite treat – a breakfast of cucumber and mixed corn.

In fact, Christmas – or Consumermas – arrived weeks ago, at about the time ripe apples were dropping from the boughs and the sea was still warm enough to swim in. The three-month run-in is becoming so tiresome that it is diminishing the enjoyment of the western world’s most popular holiday.

Long before Advent – which falls on Sunday – the streets are festooned with decorations, shop windows are packed with Christmas goodies to entice shoppers and Santas are dusting off their red suits and voluminous white beards ready for the rush of children to sit on their laps.

No one is ignored in this vulgar consumerfest. There are stockings and advent calendars for dogs, cats and hamsters, and even one on a Top Gear theme – much as I adore the wonderfully politically incorrect trio, I don’t want their cheery faces peering out from a little window as I count down the days.

I have to be honest and include myself in this annual shopping frenzy, and yes, Jack Russell numero uno and duo do have little stockings which are hung above the fireplace for Santa Claws to pop in a chewy or two. They also have Santa hats grudgingly worn until trailed in mud, drenched in the sea when they join the Christmas morning swim at Ouaisné or torn to oblivion in a gnashing frenzy.

We all succumb to the consumerism pandemic that starts to infect people in the late summer, although some outbreaks are known in the immediate aftermath of Consumermas when surplus greetings cards are sold off at half-price.

Isolated pockets of infection occur over the autumn, usually concentrated around toyshops as parents snap up the must-have gadgetry to avoid spoiled children spending the holidays in a strop because the super toy left by Santa is the wrong model.

The annual Islandwide outbreak occurs in early November, coinciding with the transformation of garden centres from Halloween emporiums into decoration wholesalers and the proliferation of markets and bazaars in all the parishes.

The western world pandemic follows similar patterns, with all infected countries seeing consumerism peak in mid-December with the stripping of supermarket shelves and freezers. Around this time there is a marked decline in the worldwide turkey population. There is no known cure and mass inoculation is pointless, although the after-affects of debt and the excess of over-eating can be debilitating.

And all because a baby was born in a stable 2,000 years ago because there was no room at an inn.

Somewhere along the line our increasingly secular society has lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. It is a sad indictment of that secularisation that the average Islander will spend more time in a supermarket or trying to find a parking space town this Christmas than in a place of worship or at one of the open-air services.

For retailers, Cunsumermas is the most significant sales period of the year. After a year like this when, like all mere mortals, shopkeepers have suffered from the global fall-out of a handful of over-paid bankers’ mistakes, the retail sector needs the business more than ever.

However, there are many in our community who will have to borrow to give their families the Christmas they want them to have. It is, after all, just once a year – even if you have to spend the next 12 months paying for it.

While it is a joyous time for the majority, there is an increasingly underprivileged section of our community for whom Christmas is not the season of goodwill. The custom of setting an empty place at the family dinner table as a symbol of those less fortunate than us teaches children a sense of humility and responsibility for their fellows that is sadly lacking today.

Christmas is the worst example of consumer excess in an Island of socio-economic extremes. Jersey may be known worldwide as a ‘millionaires’ paradise’, populated in the Bergerac scenario by dodgy businessmen in even dodgier blazers, but at the other end of the spectrum there are those for whom each day is a struggle. For some, Christmas shopping is a voyeuristic experience that stops at a store window – for what is the point of crossing the threshold when you can’t afford what’s inside?

Yet those unfortunate souls are not entirely forgotten. This year, as ever, charities and volunteers will raise money and give their time to make Christmas as merry as it can be for those who have slipped through Jersey’s affluent net.

Yet again, Islander David Kirch is digging deep to give everyone aged 70 and over £100. If only his mega-wealthy peers could follow his example by giving back something to the community.

The nursery rhyme rings as true today as ever it did: ‘Please put a penny in the old man’s hat. If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do. If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you.’

In the shopping frenzy that is now Advent, take some time to spare a thought and, even better, a coin or note for those less fortunate than yourself. It is, after all, what Christmas is supposed to be about.

If you can’t be Christian at Christmas, when can you?

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