# Christmas costs and the true meaning

By Murray Bourne, 25 Dec 2007

When I was growing up in Australia, everyone knew what we meant when we wished each other a "merry Christmas". We were on the same plane, even though some were more religious than others and believed in it more than others.

Now that I live in Singapore, I am more hesitant to wish everyone a merry Christmas. Of course, everyone here knows vaguely what it is about, but not everyone is 'on the same plane' by any means. (One of my Hindu friends asked the other day if Christmas was the day Jesus died. Close...)

In Singapore there are several different religions, including Buddhism (42.5%), Islam (14.9%), Christianity (14.6%), Taoism (4.0%) and 'none' (14.8%). [Source: 2000 Census; link no longer available]

For most of my colleagues and friends (who are Buddhists, Muslims and Christians), I just wish them a happy holiday, unless they specifically wish me a merry Christmas first. It is just more comfortable that way.

## Costs of Christmas

One interesting measure of the cost of Christmas is the total value of the items in the song "The 12 Days of Christmas". This year, according to Money Central (link no longer available), the value is US$19,507. The "price for six geese a-laying" saw the greatest increase from 2006 - they were up 20%. Gold also saw a rise and now the "five golden rings" total$395. Overall, the index is up 3% from a year ago.

## What we really should spend money on at Christmas

From next year I'm going to donate to Oxfam America Unwrapped. This system provides simple goods like camels, sheep, trees, blankets, seeds, etc, for those in most need in poor countries. They explain it as:

1. You purchase an item.
2. The card goes to your friend.
3. The gift goes to those who need it most.

Seems like a lot better idea than buying consumer goods that will be languishing in children's closets by the 2nd week of January. And we must do more to minimise income disparity world-wide.

Merry Christmas (or happy holidays, whatever), everyone.

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