Is Peter Sherwood a party pooper? Not exactly. But he’s totally over the Christmas greed-fest.
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Thinking about the year-round, worldwide, multi-trillion-dollar industry called Christmas, I’m overwhelmed with despair. The sort of feelings that hit me at age five when an aunt gifted me a pair of grey socks. Every autumn, hundreds of mammoth cargo vessels make their way to the consumer-mad West from atheist China loaded with Christmas ‘stuff,’ and most of it becomes toxic smoke up an incinerator chimney or ends up in landfill. Jesus was not big on ‘stuff’. No walk-in closet, no rooms packed with entertainment options, no three-camel garage, no 25-kilo backpack for daily necessities.
He would have balked at having his good name fixed to an alcohol-fuelled extravaganza whose meaning has been lost in the euphoric din of crass advertising and silly songs. He would have railed against the mass shopping hysteria and the resultant pollution.
He’d have thought it distasteful that a religious celebration can’t proceed without a billion tons of rubbish –piles of polythene, polyvinyl chloride and putrefying turkey parts.
I can hear him now: “The Last Supper wasn’t an orgy with the mass slaughter of wildlife. We ate sparingly. We didn’t cram down bucketloads and fall asleep in front of a group of travelling Roman poetry readers. And what does gorging yourselves have to do with the Nativity?
Three wise men? You lot could use three billion.” I’m no Grinch. I just think the mess created by the Christmas industry is insane and unnecessary. Sure, I give gifts sometimes and everyone gets a book – the visually impaired, the illiterate, new born, or 90… you get a book.
Jesus drove the moneylenders from the temple. Today the moneylenders drive Ferraris. If he returned, he would set fire to Wall Street after disconnecting Amazon from the Net and redirecting our space billionaires to a Mars trajectory. I don’t think I’m half as obsessed with this conversation as Jesus would be. He was a simple man wandering the land in a robe and sandals. He didn’t haul an apartment-size trailer or carry a cage full of carrier pigeons for speedy communications. Robe and sandals. What else do you need, he would ask. And I didn’t have much more when I walked the 1,600-kilometre Camino de Santiago.
As for the gift of giving at Christmas, Jesus’ entire thing was about giving. He didn’t mean throwing presents at each other for a few hours out of the annual 8,765. He meant giving of ourselves every day to those in need. Not everything is about the almighty (sorry, God) dollar. At the risk of seeking his approval, I bought books for some children at Christmas, but in a rush had nothing to wrap them. I used last week’s New York Times and wrote on them “Because…”. They had to guess why. “Because you’re cheap,” came the first reply. I told them it was because gifts are like people: It’s not the outside that matters, it’s what’s inside. So, what might Jesus say about that? “Sherwood, the kid was right. You’re cheap.”
Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 20+ years. The former head of an international public relations firm, he is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.