Don’t Mind Me: “Treating my seasonal trauma on Black Friday”

Patricia Feehily


Patricia Feehily

It seems Black Friday has officially crossed the pond: The police were called to the Asda superstore in Wembley, northwest London last Friday as shoppers scuffled over discounted TVs
IT’S the first week in December and I’m in a terrible panic. All around me, people are spending millions in the Christmas rush already and I have fallen behind in the race because I thought the country was broke.

IT’S the first week in December and I’m in a terrible panic. All around me, people are spending millions in the Christmas rush already and I have fallen behind in the race because I thought the country was broke.

I should have known, of course, that it would take more than a bloody recession and the imposition of an even bloodier water tax to stem the tide of our rampant Christmas consumerism.

I’m always ranting and raving about the commercialisation of Christmas but that’s because it always creeps up on me and takes me unawares. It happened again this year. One week I was basking in an Indian summer and the next week I was being advised to book my half price Christmas turkey at the local supermarket. For at least another week, I was completely disorientated. Now, before I know it, I’ll have missed the last day for posting Christmas cards to America – for the fifth year in a row – and I’ll be queuing up to buy last minute goodies just as Santa sets off from the North Pole. Also I’ll have to buy a supermarket plum pudding because, unlike my neighbour, I couldn’t bear the thoughts of making one myself back in September when the sun was still splitting the stones.

Now it seems I’ve also missed some other significant Christmas dates that I wasn’t even aware of, like “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” which apparently originated in the US and spread here like a rash. They’re posing a huge threat to the planet with all this crazy buying of unwanted goods, but they are the new big spending days for Christmas with huge discounts on offer, and both of them passed me by before I had enough in the kitty to even start doing my Christmas shopping.

When I was a child, December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, was the big shopping day for Christmas. We all converged on Limerick after Mass, and for one day in the year, dispensed with the simple life and spent whatever money we had in Woolworths and Roches Stores. Consumerism was less complex then and I don’t think we posed any great threat to the planet.

If I recall correctly, we weren’t in any great rush either. But December 8 is too late now. The shelves are nearly bare at that stage.

I should of course, be keeping all this seasonal trauma to myself because you have no idea how downright politically incorrect it is in some circles to even mention how many shopping days we have left until Christmas. You never know who might be listening. The anti consumerists are on the march and before we know it, we may all be living the simple life again, whether we like it or not, and we’ll no longer be slaves to mindless consumerism. Seeing that I can’t keep up with the increasing demands of the commercialised Christmas, I might be better off joining them.

Now I know that this is the last thing that Limerick’s beleaguered traders want to hear in the run up to the festive season, but the ‘buy nothing for Christmas’ movement for instance is definitely gaining ground.

As far as I can see it’s the best excuse since Scrooge for not having to exchange Christmas gifts and for being able to forego the stress of Christmas shopping. What do you mean ‘have I done my Christmas shopping’? I’m a follower of Diogenes of Sinope, who got his cue from the Oracle at Delphi. He didn’t even possess a cup. He drank from his cupped hands. I can’t wait.

‘Buy Nothing’ day on Saturday – the day after Black Friday – saw people abandoning their old spending habits in droves around the world and meditating on the problem of out of control consumerism. Some of them here in this country didn’t even buy a cup of coffee and others organised ‘zombie’ walks in shopping malls and stores, walking around buying nothing. God, I don’t think I’d have the will power to enter a store and come out without buying something. I’m going to have to do some serious training if I’m going to join up.

Opting out of the commercial Christmas is easier said than done. I have been a Christmas splurger for so long now that I know I’d have terrible withdrawal pains if I stopped too quickly. Likewise with the whole nation. The economy could collapse if we all decided to suddenly pull the plug on our mad consumerism and Michael Noonan would certainly be in a spot of bother then. So maybe we should thumb pour noses at Diogenes and the anti consumerism brigade and just continue shopping until we drop.

Anyway, I’m not sure if I could cope with another ideology at this stage of my life I’m not even sure if I could survive for long without the occasional fix of retail therapy either, not to talk of a Christmas spree.