Wrapped up in the hypocrisy of the season

I HAVEN T quite wrapped everything and put it all under the tree, but last week I did find myself stepping on the treadmill of crowded shops and expensive presents that is Christmas. But this year, I really want to get off. I m pretty sure that if you ask

I HAVEN'T quite wrapped everything and put it all under the tree, but last week I did find myself stepping on the treadmill of crowded shops and expensive presents that is Christmas.

But this year, I really want to get off.

I'm pretty sure that if you asked my friends and family they'd tell you that at some point in the run-up to Christmas, I always have this kind of existential crisis, but this year it seems more acute.

My dilemma is this: I do have some form of religious beliefs, but not really enough for Christmas to have any particular significance for me.

Instead, I enjoy spending time with my family and the licence to eat quite a lot of rich food without feeling guilty.

But am I a hypocrite?

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Really and truly, if the day itself is not linked to its true meaning for me, should I be celebrating at all?

And it gets more complicated than that, because I think my hypocrisy is multi-layered.

Not only do I mark a religious festival without really celebrating its meaning, but I look down on the ways in which other people do the very same thing.

I am always mildly horrified at the excessive amounts people are prepared to spend on presents.

This year I found myself enraged by my local supermarket selling a pack of four bows for a whopping £1.50.

This seemed to particularly highlight the degree to which consumerism, dressed up with sparkle and glitz, has become what Christmas is about for our country.

However, while I may not intend to wrap my gifts in over-priced gold bows, in a way, I don't really have any grounds to be jumping on my high horse.

I still go through the motions of Christmas just as everybody who doesn't really believe in it does.

If other people choose to do this by spending what I regard as an excessive amount of money, what makes me less wrong or hypocritical than them?

So you see, if I spend too much time thinking about it, I end up in a right festive muddle.

However, once I've worked my way through this mini-crisis, I will probably do what I do every year.

I will trudge round the shops buying presents, not putting as much effort into thinking about them as I would like, due to the number I have to buy.

And I will, on Christmas day, eat too much and enjoy being with my family.

I will console myself with the thought that Christmas is a Bank Holiday, that I physically can't be at work and so surely it's not bad to use the time to relax and be with people I love.

And then I will pack up my doubts with the decorations, ready to bring them all out again next year.