Monday, December 3, 2012

The Holidays

I'm no Scrooge.

I LOVE giving people stuff. I would way rather give someone gifts than get them myself (my mom says I am hard to buy for anyway, so it works out).

I am just fairly well tired of mass consumerism, this obsession with BIGGER and MORE or MOST. There is a commerical on TV right now where this guy in a suit is sitting around a table with four little kids and he asks them, "Which is better...bigger or smaller?" and they all scream "BIGGER!" and then the one little kid goes on to explain that if you have a smaller treehouse you cannot fit your big-screen TV. This commerical makes me sick to my stomach, literally. I cannot watch it with the sound on.

On Black Friday, 427 million Americans went shopping for things they don't need, and over that weekend, they spent 52 billion dollars. Cyber Monday raked in another 1.7 billion dollars in spending. We have learned nothing in this recession.

But maybe I am taking it a little too far. I told my family last week that I don't really want to give presents, that I'd rather spend our money on our trip to DC (where we will visit this community!! SO excited!!) and other people (like the families at the food pantry who are asking for coats for their children for Christmas). This suggestion was met with blank stares. The husband grew up with fond memories of tons of presents at Christmas (and poverty for the other 364 days), and La Petite is still a kid who likes to open presents.

I can't help myself. I think we are ruining ourselves with stuff. I think we as a country are addicted to buying (food, clothes, cars, things, you name it); our kids play with their toys for five minutes and toss them in the trash (check out thrift stores the week between Christmas and New Year's - you'd be amazed at what gets tossed). We complain about jobs going overseas then buy our families the cheapest, most disposable items out there, made in factories by poorly paid, poorly treated workers with no rights (and then complain about how manufacturing has fallen off in America).

This is not a political rant. Both parties and all people are doing this. We are buying ourselves into oblivion, and we are set up this way; our country rises and falls on consumer spending, so we can justify our spending by saying we are helping the economy (which, to be sure, we are; all trends are upward). But what is the cost? Can't we help the economy with our spending in different ways? According to ABC World News, if everyone in the country spends just $64 on American-made goods this season we can create 200K jobs; we can also spend our money on experiences that boost the local economy, like dinner at the family restaurant in town, or ice skating at the pond that brings money in for the state. Why does it always have to be stuff?

It doesn't always have to be stuff, but changing minds is harder than changing habits. I am hopefully weaning my family off the need to buy stuff on one day of the year, but I am guessing this year we will fall somewhere in the middle; we will all get a stocking, and we have decided to only buy American-made goods, and our budget is very small. We will spend most of our cash on our trip to DC and fun with friends and family.

What traditions will you keep, and which will you change?


  1. You ask what the cost is? In my opinion the cost is a self-sacrificing one. I think it would be safe to say that much of this spending (designed to - quote - boost the economy) comes because of credit cards; unsecured monies. And best I can tell that doesn't boost the economy at all but rather 'cause us to transfer a national debt into a more personal one. Is that progress?

    For our little family the key has become to find a fine balance. While we support our community and give liberally to those less fortunate than ourselves we also exchange a maximum of 3 gifts with each other and those gifts are long thought out and usually more for the family than the individual. Of course, things will change as our daughter gets older. We recognize that.

    As far as traditions our main one is that we celebrate the spiritual aspect of both Hannukah and Christmas over the 'Santa Clause Factor' and that we work harder to give than receive!

    Y'all have fun in DC and tell Boneyard that the r(E)volution sends a warm hello!

    1. I agree: buying on credit is what killed us, and that's why I say we haven't learned anything. It must not have hurt enough, the recession.

      Working harder to give than receive is excellent! We have never been excessive with present giving (as in charging to have a mound of gifts under a tree), but I like the idea of being deliberate and intentional.

      Can't ait to visit Boneyard and will pass along your greeting. I am pretty sure they know La Petite through you, so, again, thank you!!!