It’s that wonderful time of year – full of fuzzy socks, mistletoe, and hot chocolate. It’s also the time for intensely stressed out Christmas shopping which really shows the worst of humanity. The point of gift giving years ago was to give children something they needed such as a new set of clothes or maybe a new pair of shoes that didn’t have holes in them. Now, gift giving has come to a point where we give and get things we don’t need, never use, or is absurdly expensive.
Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely one of those people. I love Christmas time and the presents I get. Sometimes I’ll give things that I know won’t be of any real use. Although my family and I celebrate Christmas, we don’t have that tradition of making a Christmas wish list, wrapping the present, and opening it on Christmas day. My family and I are Indian so we didn’t grow up with the tradition of Christmas. Regardless, my parents argue that I get everything I need throughout the year so why should Christmas be any different?
This year I asked my friends for a blender and handheld electric mixer. And they teased me for asking for household appliances – they said that Christmas is about asking for something you want. Not something you need. This is what Christmas presents have become. When I should be stressed out about finals, I was thinking about what to get my friends for Christmas.
My mom always gets frustrated during the holiday season. She would say, “I’m spending twenty bucks to get you this thing I know you’re not going to like. You’re spending twenty bucks to get me this thing that will inevitably be regifted or end up in the trash. What’s the point of this?”
During this season, some people even go into debt to pay for expensive Christmas gifts. And there are people stuck paying interest for months on end for something pointless. Even as a child, I never got a Christmas present in the traditional sense and I never once felt bad about it. Never questioned it. But there are kids out there whose families are struggling to put food on the table and scrounging just to pay their bills but expect lavish gifts for Christmas.
In a culture that is becoming endlessly materialistic, spending millions on pointless gifts during the Holiday season is just continuing that cycle. We need to stop and consider the real meaning of Christmas – being with your family and appreciating what you have. An economist, Joel Waldfogel, wrote a book called “Scroogenomics” that calls gift giving during the holidays “an orgy of wealth destruction.” He estimates that $12 billion a year and $25 billion worldwide are wasted on gift giving.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy people presents for Christmas. I couldn’t be happier with my blender, hand-held mixer, and the other goodies I got received.
I’m saying we need to change our perception of what Christmas means and holiday gift giving.
Instead of handing out pointless presents to our friends and family, give out things they might actually use, do a family project that brings you closer together, or spend the money on an experience rather than materialistic goods that will just be in a landfill in a year. A Christmas present, more than anything, should be heartfelt, even if it isn’t exactly what the person wanted. Make something meaningful that your mom can be proud of rather than buying those expensive earrings that aren’t even her color.
Instead of filling your room with pointless goods that mean nothing to you, pool your money together to buy something that you will truly appreciate. Christmas truly is a wonderful time – full of love, laughter, and good spirits. Don’t ruin it with the pressure of gift giving.1
Also published on Medium.