Jennie Pollock
Bring on the mince pies

On 27 September our friend and sometime-contributor Gareth McNab retweeted this tweet from an academic called Dr Marchella Ward:

"Just heard my first 'I can’t believe they’ve got the Christmas stuff out already' whinge.

"There are 3 paydays until Christmas for most people. Most people can’t just magically afford Christmas when it rocks up in December."

He then retweeted this follow-up tweet from her:

"Funny how everyone loves 'financial literacy' when training classes can be handed out in job centres to blame poverty on individuals, but hates it when it means people who don’t have to plan their expenditure have to see tins of biscuits on the shelves in September??"

Mind. Blown.

I must confess, I have been one of those whingers. I remember the year I saw mince pies on the shelves so early that their expiry date was a month before Christmas. ‘Ridiculous!’ I thought. But of course, it’s not ridiculous when I buy Christmas cards and ‘that will do for so and so’ presents in the January sales. No, for me that’s sensible financial planning. It had simply never occurred to me that being able to buy the mince pies with your September paycheck and freeze them for a couple of months might be the only way you could afford all the trimmings of Christmas.

We tut and roll our eyes when we hear about (what we consider to be) people’s poor financial choices at Christmas, and think that if money is tight people should just go without or plan better throughout the year. But then the logic breaks down when their opportunity to plan interferes with what ‘we’ want to see on the shelves.

These two tweets – totalling fewer than 100 words – have really opened my eyes to an aspect of seasonal poverty that I had never thought about before. I’ll stop moaning about Christmas getting earlier and spare a thought for those for whom it is a relief. Bring on those mince pies.