Christmas consumerism

Written by: Claire Phillips | Entertainment Editor

With every passing year, Christmas decorations begin to appear in stores across the country earlier and earlier, screaming — buy me. Department store Santas invite children to sit on their laps while anxious parents buy last minute gifts to put under their decked-out trees. The genuine significance of the holiday lies far beyond neon lights and Black Friday sales — if you simply dig a little deeper.

Scrambling together enough money from last month’s paycheck to pay for gifts isn’t the only Christmas stressor. Many families prepare their homes to look home magazine-perfect before their extended relatives come to visit. Then, there’s the Christmas dinner and listening to Uncle Craig talk about politics again. For many Americans, Christmas is an anxiety-inducing time of year.

However, it doesn’t have to be. Many have lost sight of the lessons the holiday season is supposed to teach. The capitalist society of America has driven Christmas to the forefront of minds even before Halloween. The earliest I’ve seen Christmas decorations arrive in stores is right after the Fourth of July passes.

Something about the green and red popping up reminds consumers of the money they have to spend — or probably shouldn’t spend — on holiday goods. The truth is, Christmas is an easy holiday to commercialize. Companies are smart; they know what people like to buy, and that is nostalgia. That little rush of dopamine is what fuels companies during the holidays.

What was it that made Christmas so special as a child? Was it really the presents under the tree, or was it the traditions made with friends and family? Looking back, my fondest memories were reading “The Night Before Christmas” with my dad and baking cookies for our neighbors with my mom. Though waiting up for Santa to deliver toys was fun, too.

This year, many have taken to the internet to show off their handmade Christmas gifts from items they already had at home to inspire others to do the same. Garlands can be made out of dried oranges or paper stars. You can even create unique wrapping paper out of recycled paper bags and personalize each present with doodles. The opportunities for creating are endless.

Many Christmas gifts are bought simply to check another person off the list, without considering their interests. 

Stephen Hartley, a junior at Western, discussed this dilemma. “If you buy something, don’t buy it for storage,” he said. “And that’s most of what Christmas gifts are, to add to the consumerism.” Though it seems like time is extremely finite at this point in the year, try to consider what each person you’re shopping for would find personal, so their gifts don’t end up in the landfill.

You don’t need to buy an “ugly” sweater from Old Navy you’ll only wear once, the point is to peruse your grandmother’s closet for a new favorite hand-me-down. And if you don’t go to the stores, they will come to you first —  “I got an email today… about getting ‘extra spending points’ if I buy things between Nov. 30 and Dec. 7… it’s like oh, I’m already getting advertisements personalized,” Hartley said. 

So, be extra careful around the holidays when it comes to spending money. Chances are, you already have all the materials for a festive time somewhere in your home.

I love giving and receiving gifts as much as the next person. However, what makes Christmas truly special is the people you spend it with. Hartley countered this opinion — “I think you don’t have to have a holiday… to celebrate with people you love. If I want to see people, I’m going to see people.”

Especially for college students, going home for the holidays is more sweet than ever. As an out-of-state student, I cherish every moment I am able to spend with my family and friends at home. Sometimes the rush of school, work and making travel plans does get in the way of what my winter break means to me.

This holiday season, take a moment to reflect on spontaneous spending habits and think about what you’re participating in. I’m not telling you to not buy any presents — that would make me a Scrooge. Gift receivers would appreciate something more sentimental rather than a stocking stuffer that will be thrown away, or even re-gifted. Don’t deny it — we’ve all been there.

It’s a tough task to face when advertisements are constantly in your face, tempting you to constantly give in to buying goodies. I understand the difficulties concerning consumerism around the holidays. There’s a bright future ahead, however, that is more sustainable and still includes everything we love about Christmas today.

If you blink, you’ll miss the magical aspects of the season. I still look forward to playing with my grandma’s handmade Christmas countdown just like I did when I was little. My grandpa still marks the See’s Candy as being delivered from “Santa,” and I love to see him happy when I play along with it. The joy of Christmas is found within the delight you bring to others. 

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