I am often accused of being a scrooge and lacking in holiday spirit during this time of year when I rebuff traditional ideas of gift giving and excess during the holidays. I try to grin and take the shaming lectures with humility, but it’s not easy. I don’t try and explain my philosophy to most people, but I want to share some of my holiday thoughts and hesitancies, clarifying my feelings for myself in the process.
In my life, Christmas has always been dominated by a celebration of consumerism. I am a closet minimalist and I would much rather focus on appreciating the people in my life instead of trying to sate them with “things.”
People in our society feel an intense pressure to not disappoint their family and friends during the holidays – this pressure causes everyone to participate in nearly mandatory gift exchanges with those they care about. Stress levels rise, budgets are blown (or don’t even exist), credit cards are inappropriately utilized, all to live up to a social norm that is ludicrous. I have a feeling that the holidays are responsible for a good amount of lifestyle inflation every year.
Billions of dollars are spent to decorate and create an artificial feeling of “special” every December. The same old music is shoved down our throats, and people get whipped up into a toy-and-gadget-fueled delirium by the advertising industry. I hear complaints about it every year – the holidays are being pushed by retailers earlier and earlier, and you would think that everyone would be sick of the holiday frenzy by Thanksgiving. Alas, we just power right on through, our sense of entitlement and grandeur ruling the season, while the true holiday spirit of love gets trounced and trampled.
I am not coming from a completely alien perspective: I understand the human desire for ceremony and celebration, as well as the very exciting prospect of treating ourselves with lavish gifts and indulgences, but the norm is to go completely overboard. I think this is a symptom of a disease in our society; no longer are patience, frugality, and simplicity traits that are valued. Many people would never consider a tempered celebration that focuses on loving each other over the fluff and nonsense.
Any and every excuse to spend more money and buy more things is used. Few people consider the inherent pleasure and satisfaction of living simply. Very few people know the benefits of saving money and spending moderately. Overzealous spending isn’t required just because you have the money or someone will extend you the credit, and the holidays are no exception.
I worry about the entitlement attitudes and lifestyle habits that this consumer frenzy seem to be breeding. I also worry about the failure of true humanity that may be on the horizon, fueled by the kind of attitudes that pervade during the holidays.
Despite my tradition of internal scroogery and my overly pessimistic outlook described above, I am planning to do what I usually do this year: participate minimally in “normal” holiday activities and focus on giving love to my family and friends. I like to spend the holiday season remembering the people I appreciate and what they bring to my life while avoiding the consumerist craze. I also try and focus on how I can be a positive force in the lives of others. I realize I am too pessimistic most of the time, so I will also try and soften some of my harsh opinions as well as find and nurture the good in our society.
So, who do you appreciate in your life? How do you participate in the holidays while maintaining sanity? How can we move social norms in a better direction? If you have any thoughts on my diatribe, feel free to comment below!
[featured image author: infomatique]