Few things test my faith in humanity like watching footage of people shopping on Black Friday. Only twelve hours before, or in some cases, minutes as many stores are now open at fucking 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving (!) I was looking at my Facebook feed which showed one person after another proclaiming how blessed and grateful they were for x, y and z and then in the blink of an eye, a number of those same people are down at the local mall, clawing someone’s eyes out to get to a set of queen sized, 1000 thread count, Egyption sheets. Call me crazy, but this seems like the height of hipocrosy. Spending eight seconds crafting a social media message informing everyone of how much you appreciate your fellow man, only to turn around and sell him out for an Xbox, doesn’t seem much like keeping in the holiday spirit.
Unless that’s exactly what it is.
Seeing as the holiday season is now effectively one big shopping smorgasbord designed to help retailers boost their bottom lines before the new year, perhaps shopping the shit out of every store you can push your way into and destroying anyone in your path, is the very embodiment of the holiday spirit. Which is why as much as I love the holidays, the actual season can be hard to stomach thanks to of all the crap we’re driven to buy.
I mean think about it. Every year we all complain about how Christmas music starts playing in department stores the day after Halloween, yet every year it still happens. There’s a reason for this. It’s because people are more likely to begin Christmas shopping if there’s festive music to accompany their excursion. However, the stores wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work. So if you really want to curb the crooning of Jingle Bells when searching for your Thanksgiving turkey, you can send a message by shopping at stores that aren’t all cracked out on Christmas carols. But good luck finding one.
Watching TV is even worse. Yesterday, on a number of occasions, my stepmother and I were continually repulsed by this one commercial that kept playing over and over again. I don’t even remember which store it was for but it featured a number of Christmas carolers in a kitchen, wearing Santa hats, singing “Shop shop shop shop, shop shop shop shop.”
Stop telling me to “shop shop shop shop”. I don’t want to! And I don’t want finding a deal on bread makers to be what my holiday is all about. One of the reasons I love Thanksgiving is because it’s a time of year where you get to be with your family but the pressure of showing up with a bunch of stuff to hand out to them isn’t there. Not to say that I don’t enjoy getting or giving presents, I do, but the stress of shopping for them is overwhelming. Go into a Macy’s anywhere from November through December and it’s like being in a casino in the North Pole, with the sounds of cash registers going off like slot machines and tree lights and ornaments flashing like jackpot sirens. It’s enough to put you off Christmas all together and I like Christmas! I don’t want to have some negatively charged, Pavlovian response to the idea of it but with its insanely over-marketed nature, that’s exactly what’s happening.
And we live in a country where the manipulative practices of product lines and department stores are primed to be second to none. America is a place where people engage in “retail therapy” and being a shopoholic is like an actual thing that exists. A condition where a person can’t stop themselves from buying shit. What better place for major retailers to prey on the weaknesses of people constantly on the brink of maxing out their credit cards, than one where you can disguise it as their holiday duty to do so?
Between the increasingly hyped extravaganzas that are Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, having “holiday spirit” means morphing into some kind of zombie who instead of brains, craves barcaloungers. That’s why this year I’m forfeiting mine.
To be honest, it’s not that much of a sacrifice for me. I hate shopping to begin with, so it’s not like I’m giving it up purely for the altruistic purposes of remembering what the holidays are really about. If you’re someone who genuinely enjoys finding a deal or the type of person who gets a rush off of savings, then who am I to stop you during the Superbowl of such activities? But if you’re like me and looking for a way to enjoy the festivities without falling victim to all of the crap you’re supposed to be hoarding before it goes back to regular price, think about having experiences instead of expenses.
For Christmas this year I’m going to focus on gifting people with things we can do together instead of crap I can buy at a store (get excited Rheel family!) that way when everyone is at the mall, battling the crush of consumers reveling in the holiday spirit, I’ll be cruising Central Park, bathed in a bounty of multicolored lights, with a Pumpkin Spiced Latte, enjoying that most special time of year, which is New York City in the winter.