I have been thinking, looking at my bank balance online this morning, just how costly Christmas is. I am not even talking about presents. I am talking about all those little things that add up. Starting early in December, things spin out of control. I am amazed at how demanding my child’s school is, to start with.
No uniform day this Friday! Send a bottle of wine! one week, and then a box of chocolates the week after. Give us some money towards a school trip to such and such place, and some Christmas presents for the teachers, too. Oh, and bring some food for the party. Donate this and donate that. Don’t forget the poor, the blind, the disabled and the homeless. Come and buy lots of useless second hand stuff at the Christmas Fair.
Outside the school, there are endless parties with secret Santa presents for kids, millions of cards to exchange with friends and family, the tree, of course (and I must have a real one! Approximately £50) and the decorations: inside and outside the house. It simply does not end.
My child, just like any of her friends, does not just get one present. She gets a few. So does everybody else in the family. I have never even questioned just how expensive our holidays were until I spoke to my Jewish friend in the States.
I knew she become more Jewish since she emigrated from Baku, so I wanted to know what they did during the winter holidays these days. As a Soviet child, I cannot imagine not celebrating the New Year. I wanted to know if their family, with both her and her husband coming from the same soviet childhood as me, still had some sort of a celebration for such a lovely event. The answer was short. No, she said.
Really? I wanted to know. Not even a yolka? No yolka would just break my heart.
No, she said. No Christmas tree. No decorations. No presents. No New Year and, of course, no Christmas either.
Wow, I thought. How much cheaper is it to be a Jew?!
My friend got competitive. ‘Well, not really,’ she told me. ‘We buy presents for Hanukkah and Passover!’
‘In fact’, she said, ‘Our friends recently reminded my husband that he should, traditionally, be buying his wife new jewellery and dresses for Passover!’
Nevertheless, by my primitive calculations, being a Jew is cheaper, whatever she says. Not only they don’t have to participate in the whole Christmas charade, they also don’t acknowledge Halloween. And Halloween has been annoying me for an awfully long time. Why can’t the Brits borrow something useful from the Yanks? Like a baby shower? I would love a baby shower. But no. They go for Halloween, with all the silly costumes, pumpkins and more decorations.
Thinking about this made me wonder what would, should we carry out a survey, be the cheapest religion to belong to, from the holiday expenses point of view? Is being a Muslim cheaper? I know Azeris are not the best representatives of the Islamic world (so I hope) but I don’t remember people going as crazy over Muslim holidays as the Brits do at Christmas. There was a lot of food, but hey, that is a normal day for Azeris, anyway. But there were never any presents, or parties, or decorations. My knowledge of religious holidays is, as you might have realized, quite limited. But I reckon, as I struggle to make my money last till the next pay day, that living in a Christian country is definitely pretty costly. In my next life, I want to be a Jew. Or an atheist... Hold on, aren't I one already? Hmm...