Christmas is about much more than just shopping

By MPP Toby Barrett

In reviewing statements from the Ontario government recently, one might assume Christmas is only about electrical safety and holiday shopping – that Christmas is only about the cash register and the commercialization of our Christmas holidays.

And, in truth, over the decades, we have seen a continued secularization of Christmas – a trend really going back to the 1800s. We see the pressure: ‘Midnight Madness’ replacing midnight mass; Frosty the Snowman replacing O Holy Night; the word holiday replacing Christmas; Peace on Earth replaced with advertising hoopla, crowded stores and mall parking lots.

Even though we know the real meaning of Christmas, we have to realize during our shopping that the government does have a bit of a regulatory role and an advisory role when it comes to electrical safety, money changing hands, warranties offered or gift cards purchased.

As Consumer Services critic, I would like to offer a few suggestions. By all means when shopping – or drinking – consider moderation. Watch your credit card balance and those high interest rates. Be careful if forced to access a payday loan.

Ensure you are buying from a reputable company when making online purchases. Use PayPal and other online payment services because these web sites keep personal card information stored on a secure server. When using mobile applications, ensure you only use well-evaluated apps that are used by a lot of people as some shopping apps are malware that could steal your personal information. The anti-virus systems on your computer and mobile devices should be up to date. Always read the fine print while shopping on the Internet and understand your shipping charges.

Before purchasing a gift card, read the terms. Check into the fees and store cards in a safe place the same as cash. Do your research to know if the store you are purchasing your gift cards from authorizes a third party to sell them or if you must buy them directly from the store.

I would like to remind everyone that not only is this the Christmas giving season, it is also the travelling season. Be prepared before you leave home to travel afar. Make sure you have a good emergency kit on hand and your tires are in good condition. One never knows when the weather conditions can change.

If you are giving to a charity, ensure it is a legitimate charity. Do your research so you know where your funds will be used.

And in the festive season, remember not to drink and drive, and not to drive stoned or distracted. We all know the stark realities of what can happen when someone make the decision to get behind the wheel impaired.

Safety of course is key. Be careful cooking those delicious Christmas dinners – cooking fires account for nearly 20 per cent of all home fires for the month of December. We also need to be cautious of Christmas lights.

Let’s uphold our long-standing religious and family traditions. And continue to believe in Santa – whether he is derived from the more Christian Dutch St. Nicholas or the English Father Christmas, who was derived from the Pagan Lord of Misrule.

To each and all, I wish a very Merry Christmas.