Christmas Feature: The Dreaded C Word

Monday, 14 January 2013

Dan slumps into his chair ready for a hard day's work, but is sorely disappointed when he catches a glimpse of his calender to realise he only has four days off in December. The 18 hour shifts are about to begin, and to Dan, Christmas purely means a day off. Nicole Cottrell reports.
Cast your mind back to a time where one of the most exciting things about Christmas was the prospect of having a turkey for dinner, something you would never see on any other day of the year.
This accompanied by small thoughtful gifts and large family gatherings would put a smile on anybody's face, but now it seems that Christmas has lost it's simplicity and is becoming more and more commercialised.
Dan Clark, 23, from Tring, is the deputy store manager of the Milton Keynes branch of Toys R Us which is the largest store in Europe, so it doesn't come as a surprise that Christmas comes around far too quickly for his liking. He says: "We try and prepare as much as possible as soon as the summer season dies down at the start of September. We are definitely trying to bring the magic of Christmas back to Toys R Us which some argue has been lost in recent years."
Dan says that he feels Christmas is heading in the direction of becoming too glorified and thinks that society is beginning to lose sight of the true meaning. "Greed can take over, I would even go as far as saying people can be ruthless to get what they want from our stores. There is a lot less focus on the traditions of Christmas in my opinion, the nativity story for example has barely been mentioned this year, as opposed to Moshi Monster advent calenders which is driven into my head on a daily basis."
John Byrne, 61, of St John's Road, Boxmoor, is a parish priest for Boxmoor Catholic Church and also feels that the nativity story is a prominent part of Christmas, but instead thinks we face a battle between the religious and commercial side. He says: "Because of the religious side my Christmases have always remained the same, but it you haven't got that belief then you're probably just celebrating the fact that it's a holiday and you're off work." He adds: "People get too caught up in the commercial element because they want to buy presents for their family and friends, but the simplicity of it and god giving us the gift of his son is what it important."
The elderly are all too familiar with how the proceedings of Christmas have changed, Ellen Middleton, 89, of Sacombe Road, remembers when Christmas consisted of a minuscule stocking filled with a chocolate coin, an orange, some nuts and a pack of coloured crayons. She says:"Christmas used to be exciting, I still enjoy it with my family but I can't wait for it to be over. There is too much hustle and bustle everywhere and shops promote for Christmas far too early so everywhere is so crowded."
The chaotic nature and busy build-up might not be Ellen's cup of tea, but it certainly seems to make the kids tick. Nine-year-old Abbie Brooker went to visit Father Christmas at his grotto and got the BMX bike that she asked for. "That was my best present but I got more on boxing Day, I had about 50 presents I think." Her younger brother, Tyler, 4, wasn't so impressed with Santa, saying: "I asked him for a remote control dust truck but I didn't get it, I got a remote control monster truck. It wasn't a big one it was a little one so it was a bit rubbish."
It's becoming clearer that children are more obsessed with the toys they are receiving which can be pinned down to the commercialisation of Christmas and the advertising power of shops promoting the next big thing. Kelly Smart, 28, sales manager for childrenswear at Next, says that Christmas to her means a lot of work and less free time. "Christmas is no longer about spending time with the family; it's about getting very expensive toys and gifts. Once the kids unwrap their toys they scurry off to their rooms to play and you don't see them again." Kelly feels the strain of the Christmas build-up and is under pressure to perform in order for monetary gain for the store. "You notice a big surge in sales from four weeks before Christmas, and then two weeks before it's manic. The sales targets triple."
Dan is also subject to hitting sales figures and says: "We had a visit from Santa Claus himself which we promoted heavily to try and drive people into the store." If one of the largest global toy stores is pushing the boat out in order to entice customers and put even more money through the till, then it's no surprise why other stores follow suit. Having gadget and toy adverts seemingly on a constant loop only encourages children's wish list to Santa in which parents have to try and live up to their expectations. 
Although this can be considered as unhealthy both for children's expectations and for families bank balances, Dan cannot help but want to contribute to children having a magical Christmas. "Even if it's just putting one small box on a shelf for a customer to buy for their child making their Christmas complete, my job is worth it."
The true spirit of Christmas is still here is just seems to be somewhat buried beneath the commercial craze, but with a little Christmas magic it is sure to surface again.


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