A new website, urging a radical rethink of Christmas spending, has been launched this autumn. www.casc-aid.org.uk  promotes charitable giving at Christmas on a basis at least equal to the amount that we spend on our own gifts and celebrations, and urges both churches and charities to advocate ‘preferential’ or ‘50/50 giving’ to good causes.
Taking its title from Amos 5: 24, CASC-aid originates from concerns that Christmas, as currently celebrated in this country, aggravates poverty at home and misses a huge opportunity to alleviate it elsewhere. The pressure to spend large amounts during the festive season is a major cause of personal debt and associated problems, such as family breakdown; while the tens of billions spent in our shopping sprees and other festivities could make a significant contribution to the alleviation of poverty worldwide. CASC-aid’s slogan is ‘A Christmas gift is for life, not just for Christmas!’
It also points out that current patterns of gift exchanging at Christmas have little theological basis – the Wise Men were, after all, presenting their gifts to the baby Jesus and not to each other – and are actually based on the Roman pagan festival of the Saturnalia, which the Christian festival of 25th December was meant to replace.
The UN has recently estimated that £1.5 bn is still needed for emergency flood relief alone in Pakistan. While this seems an unattainable sum, it is in fact a mere 10 per cent of the total amount estimated, conservatively, as our spending in the high streets last Christmas. This is only one example of the difference 50/50 giving to charity could make to world poverty during the festive season.
CASC-aid does not aim to replace other charitable donation schemes such as alternative giving, but rather to augment them. In addition to asking individuals to take stock of their Christmas spending and to aspire to give a significantly larger proportion of it to charity, it also argues that churches themselves could do more to promote this. They could create more quiet times during Advent to emphasise spiritual rather than material preparation for Christ’s coming; and find ways to celebrate Christmas itself as the beginning rather than the end of the festivities. The site contains leaflets and posters that can be downloaded directly, and includes points for sermons as well as free e-Christmas cards. It also provides links to other relevant websites and publications.
CASC-aid does not raise any funds for itself or for individual charities. It is an awareness raising campaign only. Visit www.casc-aid.org.uk  for more information.