The disturbing evolution of Christmas.

14 Dec

untitled.png eThe most unexciting part of Christmas as an adult probably has to be opening your wallet or purse after completing your Christmas shopping and wrapping and discovering that it is empty.

But most adults would argue that it is definitely worth it to see the looks of surprise, joy or even angst on their loved ones faces, as they unwrap a gift that they have carefully and meticulously chosen and wrapped (or paid extra to get wrapped) on Christmas Day, particularly children. However it is fair to say that that feeling is never quite the same as a child. As a child the excitement comes from receiving presents (from Santa of course) and you realise as you grow up that it was this excitement that you bestowed onto your parents which made their smiles so big on Christmas Day and not the ‘No.1 Mum (or) Dad’ pen or keying you gave them that Christmas that you thought they actually really would like and saved your pocket money up for.

It is fair to say that Christmas has changed over the years, and it is not simply because I have grown up, at least I don’t think it is. When I was younger, my list or letter to Santa would embody something like this: (This information was taken from a few letters I wrote to Santa, which co-incidentally my mum had. Hmmm…)

Dear Santa,

Please could you bring me some nice things for Christmas this year? A Pink Barbie car and a Ken would be nice and maybe some board games so that I can play them with everyone and I have even seen a really clever V-Tech learning machine to test my spelling too and it is quite expensive so only if you can afford it. I have been good this year. I’d like everyone to be happy and smiley on Christmas Day too and If you could make this wish come true I would be very happy. I’ll be sure to leave you a mince pie and some milk and some carrots for the Reindeer. Merry Christmas.

X

These days it seems letters to Santa represent something a little closer to this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2073907/Christmas-list-Spoilt-girl-13-demands-presents-says-Santa-Claus-die.html

Santa, look away! The demanding note threatens to kill Father Christmas and cook his beloved reindeer

I think it’s fair to say that we live in a very different world to the early 90’s that I grew up in, and it is concerning when resorting to anger, violence and aggression are seen as acceptable actions by a 13 year-old girl who is asking for things she wants not needs. It also highlights two concerning aspects concerning children living in society today:

 1) That children are growing up far too fast and using violence as a means of authority but also;

2) That whilst they are growing up far too fast we fail to recognise that they really are still children deep down, especially if a 13 year-old girl actually still believes in Santa.

The worst thing about this story is that the mother does not really see any harm in this note and that she maintains that she will actually try to get as much as she can off the list as ‘you do not want to get on the wrong side of (her daughter)’. Which leaves something to be said about her parenting skills.

It also seems that as I have got older children’s Christmas requests to Santa have got more and more expensive. When we’re in the midst of a recession, is now really the time to be bringing up spoilt children? When I got one big present and five or six little ones I used to think I was spoilt, I was happy on Christmas Day, in fact judging by my Christmas list above I would’ve been ecstatic but after looking over the top selling toys for Christmas for children today I think I perhaps was a little hard done by?

The Toy Retailers Association has drawn up a list of the top 12 toys for Christmas 2011 which range in price from £19.99 to £99.99 which actually does not sound so bad. But when we look a little closer at what this list puts forward, we perhaps should be a little concerned.  (http://www.toyretailersassociation.co.uk/dreamtoys/2011/top12)

There is the guest appearance of some old names such as Elmo from Sesame Street and Fireman Sam as well as LEGO but bar these, everything else is purely electronic. Whilst the Chairman of the Associations Dream Toys panel claims that ‘amazing technological advancements’ today  have been employed to ‘enrich the whole experience of play,’ I often wonder what impact this neglect on our imaginations must have if we are favouring technology over our child’s own imaginative development.untitled

In a world where our children are also able to give out commands to toys to make then do things or act a certain way, where is their path of development leading? Is it perhaps any wonder that we have 13 year-olds threatening to ‘kill’ Santa if he doesn’t adhere to their demands? God forbid what should happen should she discover that he isn’t real.

One of the top selling toys for Christmas which really makes me uneasy is the ‘Doggie Doo game’ which in theory perhaps has its plus points. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTzpQ6yHLH4&feature=player_embedded)

untitled.png111The object of the game is to feed and walk your dog and when he makes a mess (i.e. poo’s) you clean it up with the shovel provided, then the first person who has cleaned up three pieces of dog poo wins. Therefore it teaches children to clean up after themselves and their pets but I struggle to find where the fun is in this game, other than the profane noises which occur as you walk the dog? I also wonder what the game really continues to teach you as most board games or games I remember from my childhood actually had a point. Whether to teach you to count, teach you how to spell, encourage you to understand money or actually engage with other people whilst having fun. I actually consider this game to be the true quintessence of the dumb-ing down of our society. Particularly at an RRP of £24 and not the cheapest of ‘stocking fillers’ it seems to emphasize the folly of both parents and children alike.

Ten years ago the Toys Association released another top 12 list for toys for Christmas (2001) (http://www.toyretailersassociation.co.uk/toys-christmas/top-ten-predictions-2001) and it was being actively encouraged for children to be undertaking physical activity with the Pogo Stick as well as engage in learning with the ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ Board game which might I add, actually had a point even if you didn’t win £1, 000 000! Imaginative exploration was also being promoted with Barbie dolls and WWE Action Figures.  There is an absence of all of this now, and whilst technology may be advancing many things and we should be thankful to it at times, when it’s being used in children’s toys as an enhancement to the experience of play, I can’t help but think: ‘What’s wrong with including a friend?’ or ‘What’s wrong with using your imagination?’

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Earlier today when finishing off my Christmas shopping I was looking at board games to buy this Christmas, something testing for the mind for all of the p2ifamily, to keep us entertained and to pass the time. I own the most obvious candidates; Monopoly, Jenga, ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’, Connect 4, Snakes and Ladders, Cluedo etc but thought I’d see what was around also thinking that they would be an inexpensive stocking filler for members of the family. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I think I perhaps now realise why it is a much more simple option to purchase a games console or computer game for Christmas, especially as every board game I was considering cost within the region of £30 – £40! AND what shocked me more was that I was finding games such as ‘Page 3 Idol’, apparently a game for aspiring glamour models. Seriously? Somebody somewhere has really altered societal values and priorities that I worry what Christmas 2021 will bring. It is pretty shameful when a game supporting lone play is being promoted over a game which encourages team play but it is even worse when board games aimed at a young generation begin to aim not only to cure boredom but also to count as a platform to a career in a controversial, mature and explicit occupation. This is not something that should be actively encouraged. I just hope that we won’t be seeing this on next year’s top 12 list.

untitled.png santaWhilst Christmas is about giving (not necessarily presents, as I don’t want to advocate that presents are the only thing Christmas is about) and about fun for the entire family it is also about nurturing, sharing and an opportunity to foster the development of the young and future generation.

 It seems Santa may have a lot to deal with this Christmas and in many Christmases to come, not only in deciding whether a gift is moral enough to give but also whether it is worth risking his life for.

N

Source(s): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2073907/Christmas-list-Spoilt-girl-13-demands-presents-says-Santa-Claus-die.html, http://www.toyretailersassociation.co.uk/toys-christmas/top-ten-predictions-2001, http://www.toyretailersassociation.co.uk/dreamtoys/2011/top12, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15449862

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2 Responses to “The disturbing evolution of Christmas.”

  1. Rohini Thim December 14, 2011 at 9:40 PM #

    I cannot believe a child is capable of writing such a threatening letter. It goes to show that a lot of the statements in the majority of your blog posts really are true. Society is going to pot! With regards to the difference between toys now and toys ten years ago I believe a lot of your points to be valid as technology seems to take the childs imagination away from them and although it does take away alot of the annoying bits about normal everyday games it does completely patronise the child and assume they’re stupid or incapable of learning how to do stuff for themselves. But we are each all too capable of being sucked in by consumerist thought as we see what everyone else has got and either want it or something better.

  2. Anne Kelly December 14, 2011 at 10:27 PM #

    I just read an article about how little people save these days. Maybe that’s related to people being so greedy, and the misconceptions around want vs. need.

    http://www.npr.org/2011/12/05/143149947/why-americans-spend-too-much?ft=3&f=111787346&sc=nl&cc=es-20111211

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