The Archbishop of Canterbury is right, expensive gifts can damage Christmas

Perhaps we should try and keep Christmas in proportion this year

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The Independent Online

I like to think we are not a particularly materialistic family. We share an iPad, my eldest daughter’s favourite toy was until very recently an antique Etch a Sketch (she’s nine) whilst the youngest (aged six) likes to sit at the kitchen table and draw pictures with her coloured pencils.

But from first light last Christmas Day these two otherwise well-behaved little girls were like a pair of wild dogs falling upon their prey, ripping piles of packages apart with frenzied and faintly blood-curdling intensity.

In fact – like many families - they have so many presents they have to open them in two if not three sittings, presumably to prevent their little fingers becoming crippled with the repetitive strain of uncovering the “treasures” within.

Treasures, it should be said, which are briefly glanced at before being tossed to the floor to allow them to move on to the next one as quickly as possible whilst my wife struggles to note the gift and the name of the donor so that the reluctant thank you cards can trickle out in the new year.

I’m exaggerating. Slightly. It is a scene which is repeated, to a lesser extent, at birthdays too and one which we justify on the basis that the children enjoy it with unbridled if shallow joy.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s invocation to forsake such atavistic outbursts of present-lust is a timely plea from the country’s most senior clergyman that perhaps, just perhaps, we should try and keep Christmas in proportion this year.

Dr Welby, a father of six, is not calling for a moratorium on gifts, rather to ditch the expensive ones that drive families into debt and place stress on the household for the rest of the year as they struggle to pay off their bills.

Research has suggested we will shell out £1,000 before the final turkey sandwich is consumed this year and queues are ripping each other’s throats out in the New Year sales. 

The Archbishop, an Old Etonian who abandoned the well-heeled life of a global oil executive for the calling of a cleric (albeit the grandest one in the land), is refreshingly realistic about the chances of his words having any impact.

He told ITV’s The Martin Lewis Money Show (the multi-millionaire saving expert who still buys his crisps at Poundland) that he doubts anyone will take any notice.

For those of us who would love to see the whole bacchanalian Yuletide orgy slimmed down into a church service, a few inexpensive gifts and a family meal, there is undoubtedly little hope. But perhaps it is time we stopped blaming the children.