Editorial: Consumerism puts Christmas out of reach for many Bendigo families

IF WE ever needed proof the rampant consumerism of Christmas had well and truly caught up with families, it came this week.

To coincide with the launch of its annual Christmas appeal, the Salvation Army released a disturbing report laying bare the financial toll of the festive season.

It found that 8.4 million Australians regard Christmas as a “financial nightmare”, with 2.4 million “quite worried” or “very worried” about how they will pay for presents, food and drinks.

Most concerning of all, however, is that 1.8 million, or 10 per cent, of respondents to the survey think it is “likely” they will go into debt to fund their Christmas celebrations.

These statistics demonstrate that not only have we, as a country, drifted far away from the true meaning of Christmas, but also that there is a worrying number of families under financial stress.

This financial pressure is undoubtedly exacerbated by Christmas, but it is a pressure present for too many families throughout the year.

Bendigo Salvation Army captain Craig Wood says he expects the number of local families seeking assistance to triple during December.

He says the organisation’s financial counsellors work throughout the year with their clients to help them budget, but Christmas comes with its own unique demands.

No parent wants to see their child go without a present on December 25 and as such many make significant personal sacrifices to ensure that does not occur.

Yet, the Salvation Army’s research indicates almost 500,000 children under the age of 10 year will have nothing to unwrap on Christmas morning.

Christmas should not be a trigger for people to slide into poverty.

Regardless of whether you observe Christmas a sacred day on the religious calendar, or simply use the holiday for rest and relaxation, it is not worth compromising your family’s financial security.

It is far more important that children eat three nutritious meals a day throughout the year than gorge themselves on December 25.

The increasingly consumerist nature of Christmas is not only completely at odds with its origins, but completely unrealistic given the cost of living pressures facing many families in 2016.

It is time to get back to basics.

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor

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