I admit: I’m a self-confessed Grinch. Christmas brings out the cranky side of me, the pessimistic side which is cynical about everyone and everything. It only takes the mentioning of “Christmas Wonderland” to get me rolling my eyes and start a rant about capitalism. It’s a fact my friends know very well and never fail to call me out for.
It’s not that I’ve been traumatised by tales of Santa or been haunted by terrible Christmas songs. (Although, I have to admit, taking part in eight years of carolling may have done something to dampen by Christmas spirit). It’s the fact that Christmas is no longer just two weeks in December filled with lights and unbridled joy. In fact, it is now slowly turning into a two-month phenomenon, with decorations kicking in right after Halloween. Don’t be surprised you start hearing Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer by July in a few years – Quartz has a fascinating Christmas Calculator which breaks down this process which you can find here.
This is an apt point in this article to ask my dear readers to briefly consider the fact that most areas in Singapore seem contented to celebrate Christmas right away after Halloween… without a single mention of Deepavali. Remember that festival? You know, the biggest festival in the Indian calendar that often comes before Christmas? Yeah, that one.
Apart from Christmas taking up much more of the Gregorian calendar than necessary, my more prominent issue with this fact is that it turns the holidays into a massive sales pitch. It is as if the second part of Singapore’s financial calendar has nothing but SALES stamped all over it – first it starts off with the Great Singapore Sale, then a brief lull leading into the festive season where prominent stores attempt to “clear stock”, before rolling right into the November-December haze of end of year sales. Let’s not forget that the sales will almost certainly stretch on till Chinese New Year, where the current red and green decorations will be spruced up with a touch of gold to phase into another festive season.
Don’t get me wrong, I love sales. In fact, I get most of my shopping done during this time even though I’m critically aware that this is another scheme by the capitalist structure we’ve become slaves to. It’s hard to blame the shoppers as well for buying into this scheme when we’ve been raised up and fed on so much material surrounding Christmas as a commercial festival of gifts. It must be tougher for those who hold Christmas in high religious regards to see their festival trampled over by big corporations. As someone who does not celebrate Christmas in the religious aspect, it is not my place to comment on the implications of this.
What I can do however is rally my readers to take part in the Christmas in a different manner. It’s been a tough and confusing year, with many local and global events dividing us on a stunning variety of fault lines. It’s been the year were sheer cold-heartedness was displayed by humanity and the year of crippling democracies. A year where race has come into question again and again, to the point where it has turned us against each other. Let us not end the year by engaging in more mindless activities and actively try to spend our hard-earned money on those that could benefit from it.
So consider trying a different take at the holidays this year, especially at the end of such a tumultuous year where the future seems more uncertain than ever. Here are five very convenient options which you can take up, regardless of whether you can afford to give cash or kind (or even time!) Do note that this post is definitely not sponsored by any of the organisations mentioned below. Your Grinch of a writer simply wants to revive the true meaning of the Christmas spirit.
- Boys’ Brigade – http://www.bbshare.sg/
Definitely one of the more well-known organisations taking part in the charity effort. The best part of Boys’ Brigade annual Share-A-Gift campaign is the distinct milestones it sets out and the visible impact it has on its beneficiaries. Share-A-Gift priorities bare necessities and attempts to reach out to the hidden communities that need support the most. Its gift boxes can be found all over the island (usually outside NTUCs) and you can even track the impact you made at their website.
- Salvation Army
Another staple of the Christmas charity scene, Salvation Army is instantly recognisable due to their trademark kettles. I’m sure all of us have donated to the kettlers but for those who find that they have a lot of extra time on their times, you might even want to volunteer as one of the kettlers!
This year, Salvation Army has a tie-up with the Shopback which you can read more about here: http://www.shopback.sg/salvationarmy. For those who plan to indulge in some timely Christmas shopping, why not make a change while doing so?
This is my personal favourite from the list as it’s a definite sign that corporations can do their part as well in spreading the Christmas cheer. For those of us who resort to these taxi apps, I’m sure Delivering Happyness is a project you must have come across. A rather creative initiative by Grab, it taps on their pool of drivers to pick up customised packages from their riders – without the riders having to pitch in a single cent. So for those who’ve been hoarding stationery items for the past few years and have no idea what to do with them, give Delivering Happyness a thought!
- Toys from the heart – https://foodheart.org/toys_from_the_heart
Food from the Heart annually collects soft toys and board games still in good quality and donated to low-income children during their annual Toys Buffet. If you’ve already reached the age where you have no more toys to give, you can volunteer to help them sort out through the massive donation log they receive every year and/or help out for the Toy Buffet as well.
If it seems out of the way for you to go down and donate, you can easily take part in Food from the Heart’s efforts by purchasing a soft toy at Ikea! All purchases of soft toys in Ikea
Another CSR effort you can indulge in guilt-free! Body Shop actively engages with its choice charities to make Christmas a charity-centered event and this year, they’ve paired up with Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore to channel your purchases into improving education for children with Cerebral Palsy.
Try something new this Christmas and stretch your dollar to cover those unable to take part in the joy. A very Merry Christmas everyone! (: