Every year it seems to get worse. The holiday advertisements come earlier and earlier, the number of catalogs piling our mailbox grow, and the number of sales and advertisements increase. Average American households carry about $8000 in credit card debt. Yet Americans plan to spend an average of $1,096 on holiday gifts this season. Most people go over budget. They will go further into debt.
Our holiday season no longer seems to be about the holiday. It is now about accumulating presents. People fight in lines over the last x-item, they stress about giving and getting the perfect presents. A local radio station recently offered an x-box 360 for anyone who would be willing to part with their child for 24 hours. It was shocking to hear of how many people responded with offers for this radio personality to take their child. One mother even called offering up her 1 week old infant. Why do we care more about these things -- this stuff than we do about our own lives and families?
The crazed stress of the holiday starts with the first drop of autumn leaves. I saw a commercial the other day (K Mart - I think) where two women were singing faster and faster about all of the things they needed to get done and in the end stated that they would sleep next year (as they collapsed into the snow). Is this how this season is supposed to make us feel?
The desire for accumulation grows every year. After the months of crazy consumer spending, presents are opened in about five minutes of unwrapping frenzy. Five minutes and it is over. No wonder there is so much post holiday depression.
This year we have decided to participate in a Buy Nothing Christmas. I can imagine people reading that and responding "Oh no! What about those poor children? You are depriving your children of the toys and merriment of Christmas."
I think that instead of feeding into the consumer frenzy we are teaching them the meaning of the holiday season. We want to focus on the joys of giving. That toys and gifts are not what is important in the holidays. This season can be about more than purchasing and accumulating items. What do I really love about this season? The hope for goodwill and peace. The songs, the community activities, snowmen, and of course cookies. :)
The children will not be going without, however we will focus more on experiences than gifts of things (which usually break within a month anyway).
For example, Elyse (age 8) is a swimmer. She swims almost everyday with J. J swims 2 miles a day and Elyse will swim over 1/2 a mile. We will give her a gift of swim lessons (I will design a page and put it into a box.) I am also sewing her a small bag to keep her swim gear in. This is a gift that she will use every day. A gift that will continue to give. We are hoping to refocus our gifts rather than spend oodles of dollars on needless things.
Check out Buy Nothing Christmas
and Adbusters Buy Nothing Christmas