Christmas is a time for giving, and a great time to shop, but a more positive philosophy is “Keep it simple and avoid the big financial splurge.”
Simple food, family and friends is enough to celebrate the season and the big day on 25 December, says Flinders University Associate Professor in Philosophy Ian Ravenscroft.
“Sure there’s a momentary rush of good feeling when you buy something nice but that soon passes. The old adage ‘money doesn’t buy you happiness’ is true,” he says.
“When the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus was given a pot of cheese he said that now he could have a party whenever he liked.
“His point was that you don’t need much to be happy.
“Epicurus was one of the first people to realise that consuming doesn’t make us happy.”
There’s even evidence that excessive consumption makes you sad, says Associate Professor Ravenscroft, head of the Department of Philosophy.
“Keep it simple and avoid the big financial splurge,” he says.
Here are Ian’s tips on avoiding the big purchases and enjoying Christmas.
CHARITY SHOPS: Try having an op-shop Christmas. One year Ian and his family agreed to do all their Christmas shopping in op shops. “My kids bought me a great hat and a book on Dickens. Perfect!”
SIMPLE FOOD: Give up the stressful Christmas lunch. Salads and fruit, mineral water and modestly priced wine. “You won’t feel bloated and neither will your credit cards.”
TAKE A WALK: An afternoon walk on Christmas day is a must. The streets are quiet and the people you pass will take the trouble to say hello.
GOING SOLO: If you’re single this Christmas, try throwing a “waifs and strays” party. Invite everyone you can think of who might be alone at Christmas. Everyone brings a bottle or a plate.
TIME FOR GIVING: Many charities are crying out for support at Christmas. Psychologists have shown giving makes you happier, and Christmas is a good time to make a donation or volunteer.
GIVE UP THE GIZMOS: Ian says one of his favourite things to do late on Christmas Eve is re-read Tolkien’s Father Christmas Letters. “You might try reading it to your family. You could even unplug the TV and modem”.