An Ethical Christmas: Is It Possible?

The countdown to Christmas is officially on and, as the best time of the year is fast approaching, we’re wondering… is it possible to take an ethical approach to Christmas? In this article, our contributors reflect on what Christmas means to them, discussing whether or not it is possible to be entirely ethical during the holidays.

By Francesca Ionescu

Christmas, despite its advertisement as a holiday to be enjoyed with family, and its religious roots, has become a major marketing tool in itself. Towns and cities are heaving with parents and lovers, stressing out about what they could get their person to truly show their appreciation. Gift-giving becomes a chore, and with the power of social media – a competition. There seems to be a quantifying factor to love around Christmas time, and it could be seen as making the holiday unethical.

Christmas is used for advertising and marketing certain products, as well as everything you could wrap up and call a present. Sales, offers, packages, gift guides – they all aim to sell as much as they can of their product, while masking it as ‘nothing is too much if you love someone’. Looking into the unethical side, the holiday, through its nature, encourages over-consumption. I’ve definitely been guilty of this myself as, with no idea what to ask for from family, I’d end up with something I did not really need. NBC reported that after the holiday season of 2020, American retailers expected 13.3% of merchandise to be returned, valuing up to a quarter of the 2020 total returns. Even in the holiday season, we must think of the cost overbuying has on the environment, as so many of the gifts ‘bought just to be bought’ will end up in landfill.

I am always conflicted around this time as I do enjoy Christmas, including its consumerist tendencies, but I try to focus on gestures that feel more genuine. Last year I learnt how to crochet and made my mother a scarf. I prefer doing Secret Santa with all of my friendship groups, so as to be able to really focus on one person, and know everyone in the room would have someone do the same for them. I also spend a long time writing my cards, especially for the people I don’t know enough to get them something I know they’d appreciate and make use of. A huge part of Christmas as a child was seeing family and friends I wouldn’t regularly interact with, and as I’m becoming an adult, I wish to have that again, looking forward more to the person rather than the “stuff”.

Christmas is not unethical in itself, but the human approach to it is. This is not solely an issue with Christmas, but it does highlight the problems we see in day-to-day society.

By Evie Lisk

The frustration of unravelling the tree lights, the daily countdown, joyful nativities, food fit for a Queen, the first note of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ that declares Christmas is finally here, the strawberry creams in quality streets and family coming together to celebrate a magical day, in the words of Stevie wonder… ‘That’s What Christmas Means to Me.’ With all these amazing parts of Christmas, I sometimes question how anyone cannot be enchanted by the magic of Christmas time, how it brings the whole world (those who celebrate Christmas of course) closer together to celebrate such a heart-warming holiday.

So why in 2021 has Christmas turned so materialistic? Although presents have always been a massive part of Christmas, it feels as though people now only care about who’s got the newest phone, rather than what Christmas is actually about. It seems as though Christmas is now a time for competition and seeing who can get the most expensive presents, which can then lead to other people feeling left out or not worthy as they may have had less. This is why we need to focus on gratitude at Christmas and be thankful for the time we have together, and the ability to celebrate such a joyful experience. So, whether you get a new car for Christmas or a chocolate bar, gratefulness should always be the main focus at Christmas.

As Christmas seems to be becoming more focused on expensive gifts more than anything else, waste has become a huge problem. Kids getting bored of their toys, or teens changing their style, ends in gifts getting thrown away after a matter of months. So, I raise the question, can Christmas be ethical? Does Christmas only have to be about materialistic gifts?

For me, the answer is of course it can be ethical. Christmas is a magical time of year with or without expensive presents that will go to waste. Explore the ideas of gifting sustainable clothes, books, eco-friendly pamper kits (Lush is perfect for this), or even if you search for ethical gifts on Etsy there is an abundance of amazing gifts that are not only good for the environment but also support small businesses. Hopefully in the future we can raise awareness on ethicality at Christmas and people can become more grateful for the little things that make the holidays special.

Image courtesy of Mel Poole via Unsplash