Belfast Telegraph

Cut Christmas gift spending and give it to charity, urges Moderator

Appeal: Dr William Henry
Appeal: Dr William Henry
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has urged shoppers to avoid a pre-Christmas spending spree and consider a virtual 'charity gift' instead.

The Rt Rev Dr William Henry's appeal comes ahead of tomorrow's Black Friday, reminding people that gift giving and over-consumption can "bring clutter rather than joy to our lives".

The message comes just a day after consumer watchdog Which? urged Christmas shoppers to beware that items listed as Black Friday bargains can be cheaper or available for the same price at other times of the year.

Dr Henry called for "retail restraint" and urged people to instead think about the welfare of others across the world.

"Black Friday and the advertising industry are pushing us towards an endless cycle of buying stuff simply because it seems a little cheaper than it was previously advertised," he said.

"Yet we have so much already that it's really hard to buy a novel gift for someone. Besides, we've more stuff, less space and we're not any happier."

Black Friday is a marketing initiative imported from the United States, where it comes the day after Thanksgiving, when retailers offer big discounts during the Christmas shopping season.

The Presbyterian Moderator's call for "retail restraint" comes amid growing concern about plastic pollution and climate change, much of it fuelled by excessive consumption.

"I'm thankful today for those bold voices which cause me to think of our world and the welfare of others," said Dr Henry.

"Alternative gifts, such as those offered by Christian Aid, improve the lives of others, are genuinely needed and make life better. These are true gifts that bring real pleasure."

Each Christmas Christian Aid offers gifts online that allow the charity to help people living in poverty overseas and chief executive Rosamond Bennett welcomed the Moderator's plea. "Of course, people want to buy a gift for their nearest and dearest at Christmas," she said.

"But the giving of gifts to an ever-widening circle of friends is a recipe for stressed-out shoppers and a polluted planet. This year, let's choose meaning over merchandise."

And Mark Crawford from the Northern Ireland Consumer Council has encouraged local shoppers to spend responsibly.

"Many retailers are trying to encourage us to spend during the festive season and it is easy to feel pressured into buying, but remember, it is only a bargain if you really need it," he said.

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