The flyer came in for one of my hubbies favourite stores and there was something on sale that he was heading out buy. “You can’t go today.” I said, “That’s a Black Friday sale and it’s only Wednesday.”
“Yes I can, look here.” He passed me the flyer and sure enough, in bold red lettering, “Red Wednesday Specials”.
It became a game for us to see how far the advertising machine would stretch this out. What started out as a one day, blow out post-Thanksgiving sales event, has become a week long shopping frenzy. We saw Red Wednesday, Black Friday, Black Friday weekend, Cyber Monday, and finally, Cyber Monday week and the kicker is, this was originally meant as an American event. I live in Canada but because of online and cross border shopping, Canadian retailers felt pressured to join in too, even though our Thanksgiving feast day is in October .
Along with the slick ad campaigns comes the anxiety, because the thought of Christmas can no longer be avoided and so the, what to buy people, panic begins.
Yesterday, at the little vintage shop where I work part-time, I was seeing a theme with my customers. Folks shop with us for Christmas gifts for a variety of reasons, they either have loved ones who collect certain items, just love vintage, or are purposely choosing to shop environmentally responsibly and, of course, they are looking for a unique gift.
But I am also seeing an underlying trend. One that only a culture that has too many possessions and the resources to buy even more, could possibly create. People are totally stumped as to what to buy the folks on their list. “They don’t need anything.” They don’t want anything” “I can’t afford anything that they would want.” These were statements I was hearing over and over again.
But there is much more to this first world problem that my customers are stressing about. Folks are becoming ever aware of the garbage we are creating as a society and by purchasing gifts for people who don’t need, or even want more stuff, it is only adding to the problem.
And so through out the day, I saw customers come into the shop with an underlying level of stress over a holiday that is being pushed at us by the corporate greed train days, weeks and even months before we should even be thinking about it.
In the eighties and nineties of last century, consumerism hit it’s height. We were living in a world of affluence. Globally sourced, cheaper goods where flooding into the market place and we shopped our little hearts out because we could. As this century wears on, our buying habits have created a couple of online superpowers. Now we only need to click and wait for that smiley faced shipping box to land at our front door. This kind of consumerism has even spawned a new type of criminal – the parcel bandit. But it has also disconnected us from the slower paced enjoyment of the shopping experience of old where you visited your favourite merchants, who offered greeting for a wonderful holiday season as they served you with knowledge and patience .
Am I just copping out and railing against the system because, I too, have a list of loved ones who don’t need or want anything? Perhaps I am just feeling nostalgic for a simpler time when it was the gathering of friends and family in love and togetherness that meant the most.
Hell yes to both.
Here’s the thing, a lot of folks are feeling the same way I am. They feel like they have to buy gifts. They have guilt. They want to show their love for their friends and family but fear they can not achieve the gift giving level that may be expected and they are living in dread of a holiday that was once such a beloved day.
Christmas has been hijacked by big business and they are well aware of your angst.
I don’t have the magical answers for you but I will say this, Christmas has been hijacked by big business and they are well aware of your angst. I could tell you to turn off your televisions to avoid the commercials. I could tell you to put the advertising flyers straight into the recycle bin. I could advise you to stay out of the shopping malls as well and maybe these things may help, but in truth, until we as a society choose to take back our holiday and celebrate it how we choose and not how we are being coerced into by the marketing machine, we will continue to have this first world problem to spend on unwanted goods that none of us needs or wants and live with the anxiety and the guilt, if we don’t.
I will say this though, talk to your loved ones. I’ll bet they are feeling the same stress over this holiday too. Offer to start a new tradition for your family, one that focuses more on love and togetherness and less on stuff. Fill your hearts with mutual respect and gratitude and your bellies with a really good feast and give thanks for what we have, now, instead of what we think everyone wants.
I do have one idea to offer you as the perfect gift for everyone on your list that is guarantee to be received with gratitude by all. That is the gift of time. The one present that will be appreciated and remembered in the years to come.
Because, I will bet the farm that if you ask your family, they probably won’t remember what gift you gave them this Christmas in 10 years time but they will remember how they felt this holiday season if you spend your time and not your money on making warm and loving memories with them instead, and that is a gift that has the potential to create a Christmas miracle and not a first world Christmas problem.