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The Consumerism of Christmas

By: Emmanuelle Feria

Everyone knows that the true meaning of Christmas is to buy and get gifts. Shortly after the season of Thanksgiving comes the consumerism of Christmas. Starting off this chaotic frenzy to stores and the Christmas season is Black Friday. Right after you finish eating a nice, home-cooked meal and enjoying the company of your family, you have to hurry off to the store to make sure you get all of the hottest discount items! Even earlier than Black Friday, the companies and stores you know and love get their Christmas items in so that you can begin to think about all the things you will buy, even before the month of December! It’s time to go Christmas shopping! You know what that means! Time to sprint to the store to buy gifts for your friends, family, and probably yourself! We all love

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receiving gifts–not so much giving them–but giving gifts is a nice way to display appreciation and love to your friends and family.

However, in the midst of this family-oriented holiday and winter celebration, we often get caught up in the consumerism associated with it. Over time America has gained a reputation for being a highly consumerist nation and the birthplace of many leading companies. The American economy is also highly reliant on these leading companies and businesses, so it is necessary for them to make a profit, and encourage the public as much as they can to buy from their company. It is not by nature an evil intention. However, with the vast array of companies, businesses, and stores competing for the public’s money and their publicity, they become too focused and too motivated to make money off of their customers. They will do almost anything to grab the interest- and the cash- of their customers. They trick us into squandering our money, wasting it away on materialistic and unimportant items. To contrast, not all items that can be bought from a store are wasteful spending. Stores do sell helpful items that make life easier. Items that can be bought can have an incredible impact on the people that buy them– for instance, books. Books have the potential to have an incredible impact on their readers. However, most people tend to spend their money on less useful items.

The reinforcement of consumerism culture and the tradition of Christmas consumerism

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is Santa Claus. This light-hearted, rosy-cheeked figure is the paragon of Christmas spirit. He is generous and seeks to make children happy. However, the only way that he seeks to “make them happy” and “spread Christmas cheer” is by sending them gifts and riding over rooftops, chanting, “ho, ho, ho!” He isn’t very realistic, and represents a more abstract idea. He doesn’t encourage children to give gifts to each other, and help those in need. Every Christmas, children expect to get the perfect gifts from Santa, not being encouraged to give gifts to others as well. While Santa Claus is a generous figure, he doesn’t really encourage others to be generous. He only expects children to “spread the Christmas cheer,” “be nice,” and believe in his existence. Those are pretty low standards, considering that this so-called Santa prepares gifts and delivers them to children every single year, expecting them only to “be nice” when he has done so much for them. There is no guarantee whatsoever that children all around the world will “be nice” and that he would be able to “see them when they’re sleeping” and “know when they’re awake” as the well-known Christmas song goes. Also, how on earth would an obese, diabetic old man be able to live for so long and still have the will and physical ability to transport gifts to children? How would this man be able to survive on milk and cookies? As nice of a thought as this is, it just isn’t very realistic or possible. Santa could, more controversially, represent consumerism. When the time comes and children choose to no longer believe in him, they go to the store and buy gifts for themselves, and sometimes for their friends and family.                    

Another issue is that many gifts that are bought and given during Christmas end up in landfills shortly after. Further, plastic or glass gifts can end up on coastlines, and in the ocean. Consumerism itself isn’t negative, but its influence can have a negative impact on people.  It isn’t shameful to buy things, and people should not be ashamed of consumerism. Conscious consumerism can be beneficial. Buying ethical gifts that give back to the environment are good, and so are gifts that are practical, durable, and sustainable. Conscious consumerism can use the public’s urge to buy things for a good cause. For instance, a company called “4ocean” funds ocean cleanups and uses the plastic collected from those cleanups to create bracelets. The public can then buy these bracelets and feel good, knowing that their purchase of the bracelet cleared one pound of plastic from the ocean and its coastlines. This company also offers other products that buyers can feel good about and know their purchase is going to a good cause. As Christmas is approaching, we must remember its importance, and not get caught up in the consumerism that so often surrounds it.