Yes, this is a piece decrying the materialism of Christmas.
Here is an obligatory condescending photo of disillusioned and desperate holiday shoppers.
Photo by David Parry/AP
Estimated spending in the United States on Christmas gifts this year will be approximately $830 per person. Geeze. Sounds too high and probably is skewed upwards by some rich people seriously overdoing it, but I think the point is clear enough.
Leaving out the social and environmental ills of over-consumption -- no, wait, here is a photo of a Chinese worker in hell-ish conditions making useless disposable Christmas shit.
Photo by Imaginechina/Rex
Americans spend approx. $70 billion on holiday gift-giving, that figure doubles to about $140 billion for total global spending. Take a moment with that one. And with annual Christmas spending going up but incomes staying stagnant, some simple long division shows that we are going in debt to buy more of what we already have.
Some people are resisting these unreasonable levels of holiday spending, taking budgets and priorities and the risks of spoiling their children into consideration, but even these enlightened folks speak only in terms of tempering the rush, of getting spending under $100 per child. The most pinko-commie of them will still buy their children something, settling for a more humble gift as a show of resistance to the pressures of Xmas. But these brave souls risking social shame and the ire of a frothing ad-infused child still feel as if some material thing must be given.
The planning, the worrying, the holiday-shopping infrastructure and stress, the associations of love with money, the warped senses of value.
When was the exact moment that Christmas became synonymous with buying stuff I do not know, but it seems that we've reached a point of gifting no-return. The idea of simply spending Christmas with your family without the obligatory spending and consumption is not even a possibility.
Forgetting that Jesus was sorta adamantly against the whole money and materialism thing, this automatic linking of buying presents with a family holiday yields negative returns across the board. The planning, the worrying, the holiday-shopping infrastructure and stress, the associations of love with money, the warped senses of value.
And for what? If you're an average person living in a Western nation you can be pretty confident that your intended gift-receiver already has everything he or she needs and most likely lives a year where their other superfluous wants are often met. And so all that rushing to the mall, and waiting in lines, and feelings of obligation, and burnt oil and mountains of plastic are all, quite plainly, a waste.
$830 a person. Taking even 10 per cent of that and sitting down with your child or niece or nephew or loved-one, and browsing any of the below organizations would be money and time not only better spent but also better in-line with the true spirit of Christmas.
KIVA, a micro-financing site, allows you to loan small amounts to specific people in need. You choose who gets the loan, they get the money through a local micro-bank, and then get to buy a cow or a piece of equipment that allows them to stay afloat and feed their family. You see their names and their photos. Your loan eventually gets paid back to you and you can cash it out or loan it out again.
OXFAM does great work around the world and a wonderful job of offering shopping and gift options that let us satisfy our need to "buy" while doing some good. Browsing their site shows you where your money goes and what people in need really look like.
This list from Oprah.com gives us a whole bunch of affordable charity-shopping options starting as low as $5. A great resource.
So, personally, I am going to take this 10 per cent thing and go with it. I'm committing $83 and am going to sit down with my little sister and take her charity-shopping. We will get to spend some time together, have a look at the world around us, get some perspective, and hopefully learn something about wants, needs, time, money, and what sort of global citizens we want to be.
Happy Holidays, folks, spend them well.
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