Black Friday or Advent?
Was there not something deeply unattractive and worrying about the television scenes of people fighting with each other to lay hands on the best bargains during last week’s so-called ‘Black Friday?’ This is apparently an American-inspired effort to attract pre-Christmas shoppers by offering ludicrous discounts on a small number of items, in the hope that the gullible will then be persuaded to buy something else as well. It’s a marketing ploy which appeals to the worst kind of greed and consumerism.
By contrast, The Federation of Small Businesses ‘Shop locally’ campaign appeals to our best possible instincts. I am looking forward to supporting small businesses in Malmesbury and Royal Wootton Bassett tomorrow with them, and then during Small Business Saturday. These initiatives encourage us all to shop locally, and to keep our high streets vibrant. Its a modest and moderate ambition, and one which I hope that all of my readers will support.
There are two extremes associated with the forthcoming festivities, neither of which I like very much. Some people go massively over the top. They invest hundreds of pounds in extravagant presents which they cannot afford, rack up their credit cards to the maximum possible, closing their minds to the consequences in the cold light of the New Year; and then focus their attention on eating and drinking so much over a period of up to a month, that they pretty quickly lose track of what they are celebrating, quite possibly of where they are. At the opposite end, there is a group of mildly self-righteous or puritanical people who seem to take a pride in doing as little as possible – a tasteful string of tinsel here, a glass of dry sherry there, and a small donation to charity in lieu of Christmas cards. That school of thought seems to me to be missing the mark as widely as the over-celebrators.
Christmas should be a joyous celebration; it should be about Christ whether or not we are regular churchgoers; it should be about families, parties, pleasant social events; and it should be about entering into the spirit of it all. But it should be about doing all that in a modest and sensible, mildly tipsy perhaps but not blind drunk sort of way. “Enough of this world’s goods” as my clergyman Father used to say “but not too much of them.”
Advent is one of the loveliest of times – anticipating what is to come and looking forward. It has some of the nicest carols “Oh come, oh come Emmanuel”, and there is little to beat the child’s excitement as he or she opens yet another little window, keenly anticipating the fun that is to come. So let us neither be Scrooge nor Gargantua in the weeks to come. Perhaps we should take a lesson from that mediaeval squire from Castle-Combe, Sir John Fastolf, who was immortalised by Shakespeare as Sir John Falstaff, a fat and witty old knight renowned for his jovial hospitality.
I’d rather have Advent than Black Friday.