December 1st marks the beginning of the end.
An end composed of Christmas wreathes, obligatory family visits, wintery liquors, and lots of lights.
It’s funny to me, as a kid it felt like Christmas took forever to get here. As an adult, as soon as I hear Mariah Carrey’s “All I want for Christmas” or see Yankee Candle putting out their Christmas scent collection–I usually think, “Geeze. Didn’t we just do this!?”
Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas. I mean, I have to—I’m not a monster. I have really fond memories associated with Christmas time and the old adage is true—it’s way more fun to give gifts than to receive them.
What I don’t like is the commercialism. The consumerism. The materialism. Pretty much any of those “isms.”
Since Thanksgiving I’ve been struggling to keep up with my emails. Not because I have lots of important documents to attend to or because actual people need something from me. No. It’s all junk mail. Entirely.
“Only a few hours left!”
“Forgot to shop—don’t worry!”
“IT ALL ENDS TODAY.”
Good God, it feels like these marketing teams all took a seminar in post-apocalyptic advertising or something. I guess fear sells almost as much as sex does.
And here’s my point, dear reader.
The US currently has some of the highest rates in depression and anxiety. We’re overwhelmed, stressed out, scared, nervous little gazelles at the watering hole with “Santa Baby” playing on loop and those corporate crocodiles are not soothing our sensibilities. They are looming, conniving and doing their best to send us panicking into their jaws. Cue the death-role.
Not only is shopping and getting more shit not the “true meaning of Christmas”—it’s unhealthy for our morality, mentality, environment, relationships, and finances.
That being said, please don’t think the only solution is contributing money to non-profit organizations in your loved one’s name. Like that’s an amazing thing to do and we should support our non-profits (trust me on that, I work for one) and the great work they do year-round—but come on. Unless they explicitly tell you that’s what they want (which my dad has in the past), it’s kinda obnoxious to go into a long rant about commercialism and say to your nephew, “So I’m giving you something far more valuable than a new truck. I’m giving you the gift of generosity,” and then hand him a certificate of a duck donated to a family in Uganda.
He’s a kid. The lesson of generosity should be taught to him daily, not in a one-ditch effort to make yourself feel better or superior. Still allow him that warm fuzzy memory of something cool on Christmas.
Give the gift of experiences.
I’ve mentioned going on experiences in some of the pieces I’ve written on dating—and it applies here too.
Give things like a sixty-dollar gift certificate to the zoo for your sister and her two little kids. A planned day where you and your mom go to the science museum. Two tickets for you and your brother to go to his favorite band that’s coming into town next month. An annual pass to our national parks for the camping and fishing type. Paid-tuition for a couple’s cooking class.
Last year I made a mix-tape for my boyfriend (okay it was CDs, but you know what I mean). It was about fifty songs we’ve either listened to together, were some of his favorites, or were just songs I thought of. He still plays those CDs a year later.
Often, when I’m out of ideas on what to get my parents (mostly because they’re annoyingly vague on what they want) I just get them a gift card to their favorite local movie theater that’s downtown, has a full bar, and plays mostly indie films. They freak’n love it.
Things such as these create memories, acknowledge another’s interest, and keep you from standing in the returns line at Kohl’s on January 3rd.
So please, this year stay away from those dreaded sales if you can. You can still stimulate the economy and show someone how much you care with the gift of experiences.