Over the past few days there have been a lot of news reports in this country about the financial stress people are facing during the Christmas period. I'm sure it's been an important topic of conversation on the other side of the pond and elsewhere too, with the economy in its current state. Debt advice organisations are warning that record numbers of people are taking out high interest 'pay day' loans to cover the cost of Christmas. They then find themselves unable to pay back the rapidly increasingly balance and unsure of where to turn when debt collectors start to harass them for payment. Am I totally insane or is this just ridiculous? I'll never cease to be shocked by how ruled we are by societal pressure and advertising. Everyone should have a Christmas which is within their means and doesn't leave them facing the new year with dread in the pit of their stomach. It's no wonder so many people come to me for advice about cracks in the closeness of their connections when we can't even be honest about the state of our finances and say, 'Hey, you know what? Christmas should just be about appreciating each other's company. Fuck the expensive gifts!'
If you've already spent too much or the stress of the season is making you want to break down and cry, stop and think for a moment: Do the people in my life want me to feel this pressure? If they knew I was feeling so negative and depressed about Christmas, wouldn't they tell me to forget the gift-buying and just relax? Does it really make sense that we drain our bank accounts year after year buying people things they don't actually need, and stressing ourselves out in the process?
We need to learn to make this season what we want it to be instead of letting the television and the billboards tell us what we should be doing to make it count. Letting big business tell you how to show love to your family? C'mon, we all know they're just clever suits who keep coming up with new ways to pocket our cash! Here are a few wise messages from Tarot to get you thinking outside the box this Christmas.
Three of Cups - One reason to enjoy Christmas - everyone comes home. Reunions, gatherings and surprise meetings with those you haven't seen in a long time can light up our lives, and making plans with our nearest and dearest is given extra sparkle because of the season.
Six of Pentacles - Don't feel that you have to buy big for every single person! Many people in your life aren't even expecting a gift and if they receive one they will be touched by just a small token. Don't be afraid to make agreements with your closest friends when it comes to gift giving. Many of my friends and I agree not to exchange gifts - there's nothing we need from each other, we're there for each other all the time which is a gift enough in itself and it helps to lighten all of our financial loads.
The Star - Perhaps this may seem a little extreme to many of you, but I don't see what's wrong with making a donation to charity instead of buying gifts for people. Rather than forking out for hundreds of presents, putting yourself through a lot of stress and wondering if the gifts are good enough etc etc.. why not send cards to everyone to let them know that you used your Christmas money to donate to a good cause on behalf of all of you? (This year I am going to be volunteering at my local homeless shelter on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, and I'm spending Christmas Day with a few friends instead of the usual family gathering, just having a quiet celebration.)
Four of Wands - Use teamwork and cooperation to make sure your gift-buying goes as smoothly as possible. Several people contributing financially to the same gift for someone can make the gesture even more meaningful and makes sure there's not so much pressure on just one individual to buy something.
The Empress - Make your own gifts! Get your creative head on and try out some craft ideas or cookery. The time and energy invested into something home-made is always appreciated and remembered long after the décor of the season has been packed away.
Three of Swords - Be honest with the people you love. If you don't feel like engaging in a big, consumer Christmas this year, don't! Tell them that it's too much of a strain on your brain and your pocket and that you'd rather just enjoy their company, free of the pressure of buying extortionate gifts and navigating the busy shopping centres. Anyone in your life who truly loves you and cares about your well-being will fully support your need to take a step back and do Christmas in your own way.
I think it's so important that people stop allowing this time of year to drag them into untold amounts of debt. People shouldn't be suffering in silence about the negative effects that Christmas is having on them. It might not be the fashionable thing to admit that Christmas is stressful, but we should be able to be honest with each other about the less glamorous side of the season and, personally, I think it's a great shame that people spend almost two months each year feeling as though they have to put a big false smile on their faces and pretend to be overjoyed when, deep down, they may feel scared, tired or alienated. Reach out to each other any way that you can.