Christmas Consumerism

Maya Colchamiro, Staff Writer

Everyone knows the spirit of the holidays: glittering lights, bright wrapping paper, extremely well-decorated houses, and most of all, the presents! The winter holidays, especially Christmas, are extraordinarily capitalist months. For weeks leading up to Christmas, classic holiday music blares throughout stores, there are twinkling lights everywhere you look, and Black Friday ads appear everywhere you glance. Thanksgiving is all about appreciating what you have, and yet the next day millions of people rush to the nearest mall to purchase as much as they can. Companies are coming extremely close to ruining the original spirit of the holidays. Too much power lies in the hands of retail giants.

The average person decorates their home, even if the so called “decoration” only consists of a few holiday lights or tossing some stockings on the fireplace. Sophomore Suzette Alancheril states, “My family and I always decorate for Christmas. We usually put up a Christmas tree, lights, stockings, and garlands.” This seems to be the typical response, but the extent to which many people decorate differs greatly. Being an “outcast” in a neighborhood full of flamboyant lights can often be frowned upon. Freshman Hugo Buckley says, “I usually only decorate a tree and put some lights up. It’s kind of strange because most of our neighborhood puts up massive amounts of decorations.” There is a lot of societal pressure to adhere to the strict, unspoken rules of the holidays. Most neighborhoods have excessive decorations, not to mention the extravagant gifts young children receive. Children can easily feel left out if they come from a low-income family who cannot afford to purchase over the top, unreasonable

presents. Our current society celebrates a culture that promotes the capitalist agenda and ignores the feelings of the lower class, promoting the prioritization of the rich. Senior Kathleen Henneuse states, “The best way to show appreciation without spending a lot of money is to give handmade gifts and give gifts from the heart.” The best way to help people on the holidays is to deconstruct the entire concept of Christmas, until only the true intentions are left.

To put aside these concerns, there is also a great environmental risk in the commercialization of the holidays. Alancheril says, “The holiday season definitely impacts the environment, especially if people like buying new decorations every year. My family and I have been good at reusing all our decorations. In fact, we’ve used the same ones for the past 15 years!” Reusing decorations is a great compromise between helping the environment and enjoying the holiday spirit. While this seems like the perfect solution, there are still numerous other holiday activities that produce immense amounts of waste. Once again, humans are damaging the planet they live on. Wrapping paper is one of the most useless inventions, yet humans continue to purchase and consume colossal amounts of it. According to Grand View Research, “The global gift wrapping products market size was valued at USD 15.1 billion in 2018.” Billions of dollars go into simply one aspect of the holidays, with numbers not even considering the cost of the actual presents.

Arguably, the worst part of a capitalist Christmas is how people are so accustomed to the sale of happiness. However, this is in no way their fault, as large corporations have gradually layered money into the holidays. Junior Mason Tam states, “Personally, I wouldn’t say that consumerism has ruined the original intention of the holiday season. Consumerism has been a part of Christmas for as long as I can remember.” Especially within new generations, ads

are everywhere. Social media and television companies allow viewers to see almost any media they want within seconds. With this, advertisers can also easily reach millions of people. Alancheril states, “Christmas is really about being with those you love and spending time together. Yes, giving gifts is a great way to show your love for others, but having this desire to keep buying things and having every advertisement during the holidays promote consumerism, takes away from what Christmas was originally about.” Like anything else, balance is essential, but consumerism does threaten the harmonic balance some have found.

The online shopping industry is yet another recent invention that promotes consumerism. It is easy to quickly purchase anything you could think of with the click of a button. Tam says, “Personally, my parents tend to do all of the holiday shopping, so I haven’t been affected by online shopping at all. However, I do understand that a lot of people prefer online shopping because it provides a calmer environment.” Tam presents a good point; online shopping can allow for a less stressful experience, which many individuals need, especially during the hectic holiday season.

As a society, dismantling the way we think about the holidays and examining the reason as to why we feel that way will help us grow and evolve. There are so many reasons to limit Christmas to just the things that are most important. Find ways to avoid harming people and the Earth this Christmas season. You can still celebrate, and even decorate, while consciously acknowledging your actions and their effects.