At first I thought it was just me, not really feeling the Christmas vibe this year, but as the big day came around and we are now preparing for the New Year, numerous comments from other people who were also feeling the same way started to confirm that 2023 could be among the least Christmassy years ever.
In the days leading up to December 25, it seemed that the Christmas rush wasn’t so bad this year. This is a good thing for those that have been dreading the traffic and chaos that goes with that time of year, but if you come to think of it, it was also a symptom of a lackluster holiday season.
Aside from less traffic, there were also less Christmas lights and decorations, especially among private residences and our neighbors. Yes, the mall decorations and town plaza Christmas lights were still there, but once you step away from those well-funded zones, the external and commercial manifestations of the Christmas spirit became a bit harder to find.
Inside the malls, it also looked like people had smaller budgets to blow on the holidays. There were noticeably less packages, shopping bags, and grocery carts, even as D-Day drew closer. It felt like people weren’t even thinking about Christmas until the very last moments.
As someone who has been a critic of how commercialized the holidays have become, it was still quite jarring to see how unChristmas we have become. Was it because we have grown tired of the unnecessary spending, or is it because there was less cash going around this year because everything is suddenly so much more expensive because of inflation?
What made me realize how much the prices of everything has gone up is with my household rice budget. I buy a 25-kg sack of rice every month or so for our household, and for the past year, that has been around PHP 1,000. Although its price had been creeping up throughout the year, I was caught by surprise during my November purchase, when the price for the same kind of rice was suddenly at almost PHP 1,400. That’s almost 60 per kilo for rice. I know I didn’t believe in campaign promises, but for those who were gullible enough, such prices for our staple food must really hurt.
Anyway, despite all the challenges, it looks like we made it through, so congratulations for having survived Christmas 2023. Hopefully next year will be better.
On the plus side, hopefully this especially bland Christmas also helped us realize how we can celebrate it without being so dependent on money and unnecessary shopping. The gift of savings and/or more responsible/greener gift giving is something I’ve been advocating for almost every year, and this year should’ve forced a lot of us to make tough choices when it comes to gift giving. It would be nice if those tougher choices translated to better quality gifts that don’t end up as trash or waste within a few weeks, or just gathers dust for months, because it would be a damn shame if we ended up with more already poor people getting even poorer because they insist on giving out too much trash.
Just as bland Christmas has been, it looks like we should expect the same for New Year, and maybe even 2024. The other good news with a no-so-prosperous new year is that less spending money means it is going to be a lot safer, especially for those who like fireworks and firecrackers, which also haven’t been making a lot of noise in the past few weeks. This shifting away from firecrackers has been developing for years already, and by now, it looks like that particular tradition of our culture has finally been changed by a government that has discouraged it. The era of personal firecracker/fireworks looks like it is finally going to be dealt a death blow by these financially difficult times, as those who are spending on it are those who can afford to put up grand displays for the community, such as shopping malls and local government units. It certainly looks like the next generation is going to be ringing in the new year differently, albeit safer than the way we old people used to.
Anyway, another slightly less long weekend is coming up to wrap up the holidays, so let’s all hang in there and try to enjoy what’s left of it while not going broke. If there is one thing we can all learn from difficult times, it should be how to prioritize our budgets and finances. That’s going to be quite difficult for those who are trying to show off or keep up with the Joneses, but for those who are more grounded, there are a lot of useful life lessons to be learned from these holidays. Hopefully, for 2024 and beyond, we either get to earn more to beat inflation, or learn to adjust our lifestyles so we waste less and spend more efficiently.*