Christmas is in two days’ time. The economics of Christmas are significant because it is typically a high-volume selling season. Sales increase dramatically as people purchase gifts, food and drink, and supplies, and even eat out more to celebrate. Some retailers claim that as much as 70 per cent of their sales happen during the so-called Christmas season.

Over the years, a new term has come into usage – ‘Christmas creep’. Retailers use it to describe the phenomenon of the Christmas retailing season starting earlier and earlier each year.

Many of us remember when Christmas decorations in the shops appeared only in December. Then the selling season began encroaching into November (possibly also because of the Black Friday frenzy), and now it has moved to October.

If anyone wants to know the reason why this has happened, look for the old saying “follow the money trail”. As such, in this regard, there is an economic message in Christmas, entrenched in consumerism and secularisation. However, there are other economic considerations to make for the Christmas period.

Christmas is a time of the year when economic inequalities are brought all too clearly in the open. Putting it a bit cynically, the Christmas lights shine brightly on such economic inequalities and the stark contrast between those who have and those who have not becomes very evident.

Probably, sometime in January we will be told how retailers fared this Christmas and whether sales were on the increase or on the decline. Unfortunately, we will never be told how many people could not afford to buy gifts for their loved ones or enjoy a Christmas Day lunch. This economic message is lost.

Solidarity and the common good are not a one-off thing to address at Christmas time but are issues to address throughout the year

We try to cover up these inequalities through a number of public collections, whereby large sums of money are collected to be then distributed to charitable causes. That these public collections take place is a positive sign. However, would it be too impertinent to ask if they are just a way of assuaging our conscience? Are they just a way of helping us sleep at night because we have made our donation to this or that cause? Are these public collections our expression of solidarity and of the common good? If they are, then I believe we are on the wrong track as solidarity and the common good are not a one-off thing to address at Christmas time but are issues to address throughout the year.

We need to keep in mind that there are a number of factors that are constantly present with us. There are 100,000 people in Malta who are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. We are experiencing a degradation of our natural environment at a rate we have never seen before. Our infrastructure may not be able to sustain the population growth we have had. A sustainable pension is still just a dream for most people. Purchasing their own home is becoming increasingly difficult for young people.

If we adopt the principles of solidarity and the common good in our economic policymaking by placing the human person at the centre of the economy, we may be able to address each of these issues without causing too much pain to different segments of the population. This is another economic message of Christmas – placing the human person at the centre of the economy.

Reducing Christmas to how much we spend is taking matters to the absurd, even though this is what seems to suit some people. Reducing inequalities and placing the human person at the centre of the economy are the real economic messages of Christmas.

A blessed Christmas to all readers.

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