Don’t let Christ­mas get fo­cused on ‘heaps’ of gifts

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

‘‘Sleigh­bells ring, are you lis­ten­ing …’’ Da-da-da, da-dada-some­thing! Ah, Christ­mas.

I’ve re­sisted long enough. I almost did my first Christ­mas col­umn two weeks ago after stand­ing be­mused in The Ware­house watch­ing work­ers putting up the Christ­mas tree dis­play just be­hind the stands of Hal­loween clob­ber. But I re­sisted this ev­i­dence of what I think of as re­tail-driven fes­ti­val­i­sa­tion of the last three months of the year.

Then I got sent a link to The Ware­house’s pro­mo­tional Christ­mas video of young chil­dren do­ing the shop­ping for Christ­mas.

I could ig­nore one sign but not two.

The time was nigh to write, once again, about not let­ting Christ­mas wreck your fi­nances.

The Ware­house’s video shows kids writ­ing Christ­mas lists.

Much of this gor­geous to watch.

Chil­dren can be many things: Thought­ful, de­voted and so keen to please their par­ents.

They can be guile­less and


just un­re­al­is­tic. As the video shows, the gift of a lunch­box for dad or a pen­cil with a rub­ber on the end, is equal to the gift of a di­a­mond neck­lace for mum.

They can be ac­ci­den­tal co­me­di­ans like the lovely lit­tle girl who got green nail var­nish for her pets.

They are in­no­cent of the value of a dol­lar and, of course, they can be in­no­cently co-opted by a re­tailer into the pro­mo­tion of Christ­mas ex­cess.

Things I like about The Ware­house in­clude its liv­ing re­tail wage, its fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy pro­gramme for its work­ers and its shift up the qual­ity scale.

Things I don’t like about it in­clude the sec­ond half of its Christ­mas video and what hap­pens to chil­dren you take into one of its stores.

Shop­ping is just not some­thing kids should do much of. It is bad for them.

Kids are at their best when they are play­ing, in the gar­den, help­ing make the din­ner, draw­ing pic­tures, danc­ing, play­ing sport, rid­ing bikes, roller-skat­ing.

Yes, the sort of thing the Fa­mous Five did for fun.

They are at their worst when they are be­ing ill-led, in­ex­pe­ri­enced lit­tle con­sumers/ac­quir­ers.

Hence my num­ber one and two rules of child­care: Any­where is bet­ter than the mall. Any­thing is bet­ter than shop­ping.

The first half of The Ware­house video showed kids think­ing of what to buy their loved ones.

That was good. That was pos­i­tive.

Es­pe­cially the lit­tle boy who wanted to get his un­cle a hug be­cause he could make that him­self.

The sec­ond half of the video showed the may­hem of the kids charg­ing around the store, filling their lit­tle trol­leys to the brim with plas­tic stuff, and learn­ing to think of Christ­mas as be­ing about get­ting ‘‘heaps’’ of stuff.

In my ‘‘re­spon­si­ble’’ Christ­mas video, I’d have shown those kids stick­ing to their lists, though ob­vi­ously that di­a­mond neck­lace would have posed a prob­lem.

It would have been about mod­er­ate, tar­geted shop­ping – the op­po­site of ‘‘heaps’’.

Par­ents, en­cour­age your kids to be giv­ing but give them Christ­mases that are not about heaps of stuff.

The Christ­mas pat­terns you set up are the ones your kids will most likely re­peat through­out their lives.

Make the first gift they get each year to be the gift of mod­er­a­tion.

Make Christ­mas af­ford­able. If there’s not much money in your house­hold, don’t rue the fact.

Learn from the boy who wanted to give his un­cle a hug.

Some of the best things re­ally are still free.

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