The year is nearly over and I, for one, am looking forward to a relaxing break with my family and all my mokopuna.
I know for many families out there Christmas can be far from relaxing - instead it's a time when parents struggle against the powers of advertising and the growing culture of consumerism to give their children the latest gadgets on display. For many of our families, providing the basic necessities of life during the year is a struggle - and the culture of consumerism will just add weight to the financial burden.
I know many families who have rid themselves of these burdens and have created their own unique traditions at Christmas time that do not focus on the giving of gifts. Some take turns at hosting Christmas lunch - while others enjoy the whanaungatanga of a shared hangi at home or the marae. Like many, my family and I don't give presents but instead spend the time together enjoying each other's company knowing how lucky we are to have each other for support all year round.
Across the ditch where many of our families live and will celebrate Christmas, reports indicate that many will be getting into debt just to buy presents. An Australian newspaper reported that a recent survey predicted Australians are likely to spend about $8.5 billion on Christmas presents. Almost one third admit to feeling pressured to spend more than they can afford - and many will be paying for their gifts using credit cards - creating further debt. And British newspapers report that last year a third of families were forced deeper into debt to fund Christmas - with many still feeling the pain as they repay last year's debt and try to make ends meet.
Rather than participate in the cycle of debt and borrowing there are alternatives to expensive gift giving. Many families are already coming up with innovative ideas that won't place them in debt in the New Year. Buying second hand gifts, exchanging second-hand books, giving home-baking or preserves or agreeing to a set amount beforehand. The act of giving could be extended to our most vulnerable communities by donating kai to our neighbours or to the Women's Refuge - or by giving our labour to serve Christmas dinner at the Night Shelter for those who have nowhere to call home.
I enjoy spending time with my family over Christmas - that is all that I need. I am particularly reminded how lucky I am, how lucky we are here in Aotearoa following the disasters that are hitting families hard around the world. Our thoughts go with our whanaunga in Samoa following the devastating cyclone - who have lost their loved ones and will not even have a house to live in over Christmas. And also we think of those parents of the young children killed violently in Connecticut in the US who will wake no more to the sound of their children laughing and playing. Grim events such as these just before Christmas reminds those of us who have our families home safe and sound over Christmas, how fortunate we are.
I take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe holiday with their families and friends. He aha te mea nui o te ao, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata. Kia piki te ora me te manaakitanga ki runga i a tatou katoa.