OPINION

How's this for a Christmas giving idea?

How's this for a Christmas giving idea?

When will Australia stop pretending it's a fog-bound island off the French coast? Here we are, with the sun beating down and the prawns going off, still waiting for a visit from an old codger in fur-lined robes and funny hat. Dammit, this is a whole other hemisphere! Let's do things our way!

Still, enough about the Queen's Christmas message. Whatever traditional or constitutional baubles we hang on it, Christmas is about consumption, and specifically about overconsumption - the day for too much of everything, pushing through the pain barrier at the table and burying the Christmas tree under gift-wrapped parcels.

It doesn't make much sense, of course - it's rather like giving your mum a dozen bottles of Penfold's Grange but insisting that she drinks them all in one day.

But how many of Australia's economic (or constitutional) traditions do make sense?

Every bit of planned obsolescence, every piece of public waste, every unnecessary detour seems to have been built into the ramshackle fabric of society and signposted 'Do not touch', for fear of the loss of all-important jobs. This year, too, every purchase from an actual shop is a kiss on the lips of a retail sector that's been comatose since April. We shouldn't accept that false choice. You can have a slap-up Christmas with all the trimmings without buying into the myth of more, more, more.

You can fill the hole inside not with fruit mince tarts exclusively but also with a little of that warm inner glow. Give something to somebody you know needs it, will like it, and won't break it in five minutes and cry. You don't have to spend ages agonising about whether they've got it already; money comes in all colours and suits every ensemble.

Donate something to one of the causes you support (or one of the causes that oppose the things you're against) and oil the cogwheels of the community sector.

If you enjoy window-shopping, look over the catalogue of enthusiastic community groups at givenow.com.au, such as Urban Kittens, Lifeline Gippsland, the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group, or my current favourite, the McAuley Small House Fund (tinyurl.com/helpjune). There are thousands of them - the only thing they have in common is that they aren't fooling around. They help those who need help.

Give your aunt the happiness of a city kitten rather than a box of chocolates. She'll think you're a good person, and her arteries will thank you. Let's face it, Father Christmas is a really rotten role model.

Denis Moriarty is group managing director of OurCommunity.com.au, a social enterprise helping not-for-profits.