Christmas not about excessive spending
There is no doubt that Black Friday - a retail event which has grown like Topsy - is a triumph of marketing over need and many will agree with the call from the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland for restraint in spending in the pre-Christmas period.
His comments that gift giving and over-consumption brings clutter rather than joy are wise words indeed. Much of the stuff we buy during this period is neither needed nor often appreciated.
Black Friday originally referred to a Wall Street crash in 1869, but has become popularised as a retail sales day in modern times. Indeed it only came to the UK in 2010 via online retailer Amazon and initially was an attempt to energise consumer spending in the wake of the banking crisis.
While that was a worthy cause - retailers traditionally rely on getting around one-third of their yearly sales in the Christmas period - it has now reached the point where instead of one day it can last for a week or more.
The retail sales can be useful to hard-pressed couples unwilling to disappoint their children over Christmas, but as the consumer watchdog Which? reminds us, some of the so-called bargains are nothing of the sort and may even be more expensive than at other times of the year.
As the Moderator's words remind us, there is something uncomfortable about excessive spending at this time when there are so many living in abject poverty, both in our own land and around the world.
Rather than spending on gifts that we don't really need, organisations like Trocaire or Christian Aid offer gifts which can make a real difference. Donating money to these and other charities, including the Salvation Army and DePaul working in Northern Ireland, can not only help those in need but perhaps even save lives.
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Think of the joy those children who are recipients of shoebox present appeals, for example, will feel at Christmas as their home circumstances are such that they faced the prospect of nothing to open.
The Moderator is not being a Scrooge but a realist who wants us to think of how we can bring genuine pleasure to people at this time of the year.
Of course we should buy presents for those dearest to us, but make them things of real value - not only in monetary terms - and a signal of our love and appreciation of them.
We are in danger of burying the real meaning of Christmas under an avalanche of gifts whose allure will soon fade.