Poverty: A Nightmare Before Christmas

December calendar highlighting the 13th

Poverty: A Nightmare Before Christmas
submitted by Gayle Collicutt

Poverty is a daily struggle year-round for single parents. You’re constantly deciding between utilities or extra costs that come with school. And it becomes your worst nightmare the month of December.

You become depressed hearing other parents discuss in November how they got a head start on Christmas shopping. You barely managed to get appropriate winter gear for your children with what little you have to live on.

You have the list of items your children asked Santa and yourself for, but you can’t even start shopping until the 13th. 

Why the 13th? The federal government issues the Child Tax Benefit Tax Credit (CCTB) a week early in December, to give low-income parents more time to shop and prepare for Christmas.

Issuing this early seems like a considerate move. Releasing it early enables single parents to shop sooner than later, but what do you do when your CCTB is what pays the bills to keep the heat on and provide internet to keep up with the demands of education and keeps the cupboards and fridge from looking bare?

Sure you could save money the other 11 months of the year and put away 10% of each CCTB payment, but do parents experiencing poverty have that luxury? If you’re deciding between food and bills each month, saving anything is impossible.

The 13th is finally here. After negotiating on the phone with the utility companies to wait until the New Year for payment, you finally head out to the mall; that’s when the depression increases and your self-esteem plummets.

The popular/trendy items on your list, they’re all sold and wrapped under other Christmas trees. Having to wait usually means missing out on high demand items. Now you have to compromise and spend the day finding similar items that won’t be on par with their classmates when school reconvenes in the New Year.

You feel like a failure as you leave the mall with the gifts. You head to the bus stop, bags in hand, holding back tears, feeling unworthy of your children. All you could find was what they needed because what they wanted sold out weeks ago. 

Children in poverty often wonder, why Santa brought them less than their classmates, they ask themselves if they were bad or if Santa thinks less of them. Why did Santa bring what they need instead of want? Why did Santa bring Johnny the same X-Box they asked for but not them?

You hide the gifts in your room, uneager to wrap them; you wonder when the year will come that you can boast with the other parents about getting shopping done early. Maybe with the New Year things will turn around once you pay off the months of bills you put off to make Christmas happen.

Gayle Collicutt is an anti-poverty advocate in Halifax, who has experienced the struggles first-hand faced by Nova Scotians experiencing Poverty.  By sharing her experiences she hopes to create awareness in her community, motivating others to help those experiencing food insecurity in our province.