Our current Holiday season of consumerism is in full swing once again.

The same topics as usual. Upcoming sales. Where to get the best deals. And of course, the dreaded “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” nonsense.

Most people take part in this carousel of shopping lunacy. Both to (in their minds) save money for their Christmas list, and very often to buy things for themselves at (what they perceive to be) “the best prices of the year!”

Shopping hype is psychological trickery

For the next several months – stories about this retail circus will dominate the information cycle.

Mainstream media especially. But this trickles down to almost every communication medium.

Social media accounts will be especially active – as “influencers” online these days are a hot commodity. They’re paid to like or promote products – with little transparency – despite FTC laws to the contrary.

Unless you are totally unplugged, it’s next to impossible to avoid this wave of superficiality.

But why is this so powerfully present? Why do most people literally feel the need to participate and get involved?

Do holidays have to be surrounded by materialism?

This annual ritual of gift-giving fascinates us. Especially since we’ve done a complete 180 on the whole thing as we’ve gotten older.

The “obligation” of gift exchange feels so terribly forced, especially when we watch others become visibly stressed out about this “dance.”

If it makes you uncomfortable or uneasy to partake in – why do so many people do it? Why subject yourself to an unpleasant situation? Solely for social acceptance? Fear of missing out? Might you become ostracized otherwise?

Holiday Consumerism - Why does it have to be about stuff?

Yeah, yeah – a time to come together – a tradition

Sure, we understand that this annual ritual is really also a “togetherness” thing. And of course, it’s a RELIGIOUS holy time. But the religious aspect of it seems to be minuscule compared to the rest of the consumer fanfare. (This varies based on your level of religious belief, etc. Some folks are highly religious, while most seem to be otherwise.)

And for most people, it’s a “tradition.” Or another way of putting it is “We’ve always done this” (but have never questioned it wholeheartedly… it’s just something we “do.”)

But other than tradition – why do people repeat this process each and every year? As if we’re being FORCED to participate?

Many people enjoy this tradition. And if you questioned why, or suggested that they don’t have to do it – most will become outwardly defensive in their beliefs. “How dare you think I’d ever stop my holiday (parties, gatherings, dinners, etc.)?”

Strong families do not need forced holidays

To be a dissident regarding any popular cultural event is to be in the small minority. I’ve seen how some families completely eschew the material, superficial, and commercial nature of these annual shopping frenzies. But not many.

And I’m even sure that the overwhelming coverage and mass participation from others will give even the strongest of dissenters some moments of “feeling left out.” Part of the human condition, we suppose.

Then again, some people, like YouTube Social Critic Mark Dice seem to get pleasure from mocking the consumer lemmings:

How to break the chains of consumerism-based holidays?

Honestly – we’re at a loss regarding how to specifically convince your whole family that this entire thing is nothing more than a racket to enrich others.

Yes, many INDIVIDUALS feel the same way we do. But when it comes to cohesive groups (your family – or your groups of friends), is MUCH harder to get on the same page.

Most of the time – you will be the dissenter if you don’t feel like playing this wasteful game. Family members might view you as a loon. Friends might slowly distance themselves.

In other words – it’s very difficult to kick this costly song and dance to the curb all by yourself. By disconnecting and trying to preserve whatever wealth you have, will be frowned upon. It’s almost as if you’re being subtly forced to “pay your dues.” And those dues are societal dues, and not much more.

Holiday Consumerism - Why does it have to be about stuff?

People cannot stop buying TV sets

Other holiday observations

Technology – ever year! People love their stupid TV sets. What happens to the old ones every year? How can so many TV sets be sold? One for every eyeball? Do they “go bad” every year? This is one of the reasons why most sane people should eventually start to realize the extent of their addiction to this crap!
Tip: Buy used on eBay for any electronics. One or two-year-old products can be had for pennies on the dollar (we scored a nearly $1000 phone for under $99.)

Gift-giving comparisons (I got less than I gave! Wah!) Have you ever noticed how people judge? At least that is what we’ve witnessed. And a lot of it happens behind people’s backs (i.e., they never know they were mocked or criticized). Much of the time, they’re ego contests – especially between siblings (Wow, you gave the BEST gifts – or gee, what a shitty gift she gave us.)

Hard to knock “hand made.” A lot of people literally put their time into gifts such as artwork, hand-knitted garments, and others. But even if they are hand-crafted – you can’t simply know other people’s tastes. So despite the effort – even cheap, labor-intensive gifts are usually a total waste. Unless you can build me a turbo-charged high-tech lawn tractor – not sure I’d be interested.

Going into debt. You sometimes hear about the “debt” that happens after the holidays. It makes you wonder – why would people voluntarily impose that upon themselves? Seems ludicrous.

Forced generosity. More on this below.

Nothing wrong with thoughtfulness and generosity

I hope you don’t take us the wrong way. We are NOT opposed to voluntarily being generous or thoughtful.

We just don’t enjoy the FORCED nature of it. We didn’t make these holidays or decide that everyone MUST give each other something, right?

Being giving should never be like this. You should give ONLY when you feel like it. And it can and should be any day of the year. I suppose many if not most people feel okay with giving during Christmas because they’re getting some “worth” in return. But are they really?

If you’re like us – you almost always get yourself what you need (or want). A majority of the things you might “get” during holiday seasons certainly can be “nice,” but will be stuff you could live without. Because you would have already had it! And much of the time – these “things” are probably on the shitty side!

Footnote: What about the children?

We’ve said in the past – that Christmas gift-giving should be limited to small children. But even that concept has begun to bug us.

While children are essentially innocent and unaware of the superficial world out there – it can be said that this tradition might also “condition” them into putting more value into “stuff” than necessary.

Not sure how to handle this conundrum at the moment. Because we never like seeing sad or disappointed kids. So we’ll remain on the fence on this facet of consumerism for now – and try our best to instill better values in our own offspring (somehow).

About the author

NJroute22

NJroute22 (site admin) is an avid traveler along NJ Route 22 (and almost all of central New Jersey!) Family man, pet lover, and property owner who has a natural curiosity for everything around.

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