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Tariana Turia's Beehive Chat 23 December 2002

Tariana Turia's Beehive Chat 23 December 2002

Our old people passed down many stories, which are interesting for what they tell us about our cultural values, beliefs and customs.

There are a couple of well-known Christmas stories that have almost gained the status of myths and legends, that are also worth some thought. I mean the myth of Father Christmas, and Charles Dickens' story 'A Christmas Carol'.

Children love the idea that free gifts arrive like magic in the dead of night, purely for their pleasure. Adults like the story, too - especially as it starts to dawn on their children that Father Christmas is not real, and it's actually the family who makes their wishes come true.

Father Christmas represents all that we like about Christmas - generosity, good humour, thinking of others. 'A Christmas Carol' looks at the other side of the same coin - how miserable and lonely Christmas can be if your attitude is mean and selfish like Ebenezer Scrooge.

The reality is that Christmas is the hardest time of year for many families. Much as they'd love to give their children whatever they ask for, many parents simply can't. The pressure to spend money they don't have, to buy things they don't really need, can lead to serious debt.

Beware the Father Christmas who offers you free credit as a solution to the cash-flow crisis! He hands over to Ebenezer Scrooge in the new year, someone whose Christmas spirit evaporates when you can't repay your loans.

One of the top companies in this country is a debt collection agency. The further you get into debt, the more work for them. Santa Claus brings them Christmas all year round.

The commercialisation of Christmas, with its relentless advertising, has destroyed forever the true meaning of the occasion.

Christmas can be a celebration of love for one another and generosity of spirit, and a time to remember our gods, whoever they may be, without spending too much.

The greatest gift is love, and time spent with others. Perhaps this is the time to make contact with family members who have grown distant, and invite them to share a meal. Or to plan a whanau dinner involving many households, with games for the children as part of the programme.

So don't get into debt. Look for other ways to celebrate. And if gifts are an essential part of your Christmas, try buying one thing less this year so you can buy two things during the January sales for next year.

Nga mihi o te wa ki a koutou katoa.

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