On Holiday Consumerism and Excess

I have been reading memes after the holidays and have found a common theme: how to get rid of the unwanted gifts, how to re-gift the unwanted gifts, and how to tame children after the excess of the holidays. Here are just a few memes that I came across, but I saw many more:

Then I saw this article and accompanying photo with it that defines holiday excess, of a British woman whose tree was completely obscured by thousands of gifts under the tree. https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/christmas/british-mum-accused-of-abuse-for-buying-kids-300-gifts-last-year-is-spending-even-more-this-christmas/news-story/15d83051faf250ee2752c993037b9373

Of course I saw many more, but you get my point.

That got me thinking about the excess of the holiday season. Tons and tons of wrapping paper and gifts under trees, for every extended family member of every family. There is a lot of wasted money and effort there if you can believe all the re-gifting memes. Not only this, but the consumerism is creating more waste for our landfills, and causing ecological damage. That upsets me the most.

I never understood why every person has to get multiple gifts from all members of family. Is it to make the booty larger under the tree? Although Chanukah was finished weeks ago, some children get 8 nights of excessive gifts and then get to celebrate Christmas too with family members who celebrate it because it isn’t enough to do one holiday. Piles of things and toys get discarded after the newness wears off.

Why has the holiday season come to this? Why should every fellow get a bunch of mugs, wallets, socks and other assorted things he will never use? Why should every woman get body lotion and cosmetics they will never use, or costume jewelry that is not their taste? Maybe I am a grinch, but I just don’t believe it has to be this way in order to be meaningful.

Take Thanksgiving. It is a joyous holiday where we eat excessively, and gather with loved ones. We reflect on our blessings. No gifts involved, and for many it is the best holiday of all.

Perhaps it was the flood several years ago that drove me out of my large family home, and then my having to downsize and just keep the most sentimental and valuable things that started my own leaning towards minimalism. But isn’t it true that we all have so much stuff, too much stuff, and much of it is not needed at all?

I can’t even imagine the debt some people go into, mostly to credit card companies, to buy stuff that probably will be re-gifted. Oh, I know that sounds cynical, but I truly believe that after discussing this topic with a number of people.

After moving into a smaller home, and still having to discard so much, I realized that I have everything that I need or want (aside from new clothes or shoes on occasion) after a lifetime of acquiring things; and I don’t need another thing bought for me EVER. I don’t need another piece of jewelry, another designer purse, or any other shiny new object or tschotchke. I wrote to my kids and requested no more gifts, only the gift of time and meaningful get-togethers and experiences. They responded with understanding and now come up with creative ways to enjoy each other’s company; for example they hired a Sushi chef to teach all of us how to make Sushi rolls on my last birthday. It was a joyous and fun time together. All of the occasions do not have to be that much of an “experience” but I was truly touched at the effort and care they took to make a happy event.

It is also true that I am hard to buy for, as is the case for most people. Who knows our taste better than ourselves? If I see something that I want, I don’t put it on a wish-list, I purchase it. I have become very practical in what I treat myself to in terms of gifts. I bought myself a few gadgets over the holidays; with the sales going on some tech gadgets to make my life easier were on sale, and I availed myself of the great prices. Who would have even known to get me a GPS device that reflects on the windshield for safer driving? Or a neck sling that stretches crackly necks? Or a device that lulls you back to sleep by making you meditate your breathing, like a soundless metronome? (I occasionally can’t get myself back to sleep after awakening in the middle of the night – will report back on whether it works before I name it.)

I also got a few freebies from my insurance wellness rewards program – a 23 and me DNA kit, (more on the results in another blog) and a new trampoline, and Fitbit. My husband got me an iTunes card, as I always love downloading new music.

So it was a richly rewarding holiday season for me without anyone going to any great expense on me. I tend to buy less, and buy only things that will truly improve my life as you can see from the above. I do buy holiday gifts for my family but I tend to limit the number and I try to get them something useful.

When my children were young, even though they did get one gift per night after the Chanukah candles were lit, there were years that they had to earn that gift with a good deed. And many of the nights, the gifts were the ones sent from relatives. Still, I remember there was excess, and I felt guilty about the excess.

One of my Flower Power Cruise friends and contact on FB posted such a lovely Charlie Brown Christmas tree in her home. It was one of those very bare trees with just a few bare branches, and had just two single ornaments hanging it, without much else. Underneath it were her and her husband’s two upcoming Flower Power cruise tickets and tickets to a Rolling Stones concert. I told her how smart she was to spend her money on experiences they could enjoy together. (And that reminds me of how much debt people go into just for the decorating alone!) And think of the trees being cut down year after year.

Am I so different than other people in not wanting gifts and thinking of the extreme unwanted excess of the holiday season? Why have so many unwanted things, and have to do the dreaded re-gifting? Why, as I know some people have, should there be an entire closet of items to re-gift? Is it true that many people don’t even look forward to the receiving part of the gifting? (I know some that have confided that they feel this way.)

Maybe someone who disagrees can explain it to me. I invite my readers to do just that. Whenever I post something with a bit of controversy, such as this one, I get plenty of mail! Let me hear from you!

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