Christmas is coming. Prepare yourself. Oh, wait. If all the malls and stores are correct, Christmas has been here since mid-October. And it drives.me.crazy.
I love Christmas. I always have. It’s a part of how I grew up. I’m that girl that spends all year just waiting for the day after Thanksgiving so I can start putting up the tree and the decorations and begin my annual marathon baking sesh. I love shopping for things to give my friends and family. Even more, I love wrapping up the gifts in delightful paper and ribbons, perfectly coifed for their spots under the tree.
But something about Christmas this year is throwing me for a loop. Possibly, it’s been throwing me for a lot longer than that. Or maybe it’s just coming to head this year because this is the first Christmas in my adult life I haven’t had my own job. I don’t know. What I do know is that Christmas is out of control. It got crammed down my throat with a consumeristic vengeance this year and continues to do so.
For a long time, I’ve been curious about the draw to Black Friday. I’ve only ever “done it” once, probably about fifteen years ago. I don’t like the crowds and I don’t like the fighting over stuff. I hear the stories every year about people getting trampled for a damn XBOX and I just shake my head. What is wrong with us? And that’s even when stores had the decency to stay closed until 6a.m. on Friday morning.
Now, corporations are actually making people work on Thanksgiving? Really?! Under threats of losing their jobs if they don’t? What is wrong with us? I remember when the only stores that were open on Thanksgiving were grocery stores and even those were only open until noon. Grocery stores open on Thanksgiving? I can make my peace with that. I’m a professional ingredient forgetter. I can appreciate that Kroger is open for a few hours on Thanksgiving morning. But Toys R Us? Kohls? What in God’s name do we need RIGHT FREAKING NOW that can’t wait until Friday? I don’t understand what bargain could be worth making someone be away from their family on (what I thought was) a lovely family-centric holiday.
Which begs the question: are we really thankful? For anything? So many of us spend the entire month of November talking about things we’re thankful for, but come Black Friday, how much of that do we remember? I wonder what that really says about our culture.
Something that’s weighed on me for many years now is that of responsible consumerism. Ever since I read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” back in undergrad, I’ve been more interested in knowing where my food comes from. Not only that, I’m growing to appreciate local economy much more than I ever thought I would. I love going to local farmer’s markets and supporting CSAs. And that’s to say nothing of my support for locally brewed beer (it should be clear by now that I love craft beer).
But what if I were to take it a little further and consider where my stuff comes from? What if, this year, instead of buying mass market Christmas gifts, I choose to make them? Or buy them from a local artist? Or even from Etsy? What if I chose to support local economy as much as I can? Or what if – oh my god – I bought gifts from the Salvation Army or the ARC? Inexpensive, creative, and supportive of those that can benefit from how I spend?
So this year, I’ll probably be doing the same thing I always do on Black Friday: sitting at home, drinking boozy hot chocolate or hot cider, playing cards with my family, maybe even decorating for Christmas. I’m lucky enough to get to spend this Thanksgiving with some of my extended family, something I haven’t done, well, ever (we used to get together for Christmas every year when I was much younger, but never for Thanksgiving)…and there’s not a way for me to describe how excited I am about this! Between Grandma’s cooking and my delightfully hilarious aunts and my cousin and my uncle who knows how to make a killer cocktail, I can’t quite contain my excitement for this year!
But when it comes to gift giving, I’m going to play it down a bit, employ some alternative choices, and just…enjoy it.
If you’re interested in reading some other thoughts on this topic, here are some blogs I’ve come across recently (this is certainly not a new topic):