In December for the first time we ran two Thinking Tanks. One for under 16s and then one for adults. Children talked a lot about families, the sparkle of decorations and the feeling of excitement. Adults talked about the over-commercialisation of Christmas but recognised it only works because we buy into it. We concluded with some great ideas to buck the trend.
It’s not the way we want it
The general conclusion was this Christmas had lost some of it’s spark for adults. For some that was the declining religious significance while the majority rued the seemingly irresistible commercialisation of the event – almost 60% of adults felt Christmas had less value today than when they were young.
- Pity it as been turned for many people into a purchasing circus over the last 15 years
- [I feel a] bit of guilt, as we are not celebrating it as it should be celebrated
What we like
The positive aspects of Christmas for the adult group were mostly around feasting—good food and wine, shared with family and friends. There was nostalgia for a simpler era when presents were homemade and there wasn’t the same pressure to spend.
- human beings need rituals, especially those to do with change
In the young people’s group, the emphasis was also on family, though food was hardly mentioned! 60% of them felt that Christmas was most enjoyable for families (surprisingly, 20% thought turkeys!)
When the young people got to make a wish for Christmas, they went for peace, snow, health and love. Much lower scores for i-pods and quad bikes.
Offered a wish for the world, less environmental destruction, poverty and racism were unanimously supported.
- racism to stop
- don’t waste the world
- people to recycle
When we forced the issue by challenging participants to limit to a £50 budget most adults chose to spend it on food. And many thought they might even enjoy it more
- More. Because the reason to come together is not the gifts, the food, …. it is only the friendship
- More value. Will have to be creative and invest personal time to find the right present and please the recipient
Hope for the future
In good Dickens tradition, at the end of our discussion we considered future Christmases and whether we might find ways to increase their value. 50% felt this would be possible.
Some of the more popular suggestions were:
- I’m a great fan of the “random acts of kindness” school – if we ALL do it, it encourages others!!
- ensure that we see giving of their time and presence as valuable as presents
- maybe if we include a personal promise (eg to read a bedtime story, get home from work in time) in each Christmas card we send, word will get around
When the young people came up with their suggestions for improving Christmas they recognised adults need some help with enjoying themselves:
- but adults are part of the family (!)
- help each other more on Christmas day – my mum always says it’s exhausting
- I think a lot of the magic that is “created” at xmas is FOR children – and maybe adults should enjoy that more, seeing children happy and excited
- I think if it could be made a bit simpler and be more about being with people and showing the nice side of life, rather than consumerism all the time, it would be loads better.
The final word comes from the children’s debate on how to improve Christmas for everyone: