“Our economy is based on spending billions to persuade people that happiness is buying things, and then insisting that the only way to have a viable economy is to make things for people to buy so they’ll have jobs and get enough money to buy things.”
- Philip Slater
Love that quote.
It is perfect for this time of the year, even though when Slater said it I don’t think he was referring to Christmas commercialism. But the quote is still appropriate to how strangely ironic this time of the year is. Our country is built on capitalism, which at its root means the exchange of money. So of course it makes ironic yet sad sense that the holiday that is supposed to be about religious values and honoring a man who was not about money has become the biggest season for pushing people to spend money they don’t have for things they probably don’t need. And even more ironic is the fact that this strange spending push launches with gusto the day after Thanksgiving - a holiday we set aside to note how much we already have to be thankful for. But that sentiment goes right out the window hours after eating our turkey.
Spending and commercialism have become the new meaning of Christmas. And Thanksgiving has become nothing more than a bump in the road on the way to the spending spree. Most stores these days start decorating for Christmas season - the buying season - even before Thanksgiving. Pretty soon Halloween store decorations will be mixed with Christmas, so our economy can get an even earlier start on the Christmas commercialism. Where does it all end? Or start?
Harking back to that opening quote, the other great paradox of all this spending is that most people will come out of the season in debt that will take months to pay off, making them feel worse for the wear, and forcing them to work harder to pay for the things our economy pushed them to buy, but with less spending money in their pockets. Ah, the cycles of consumerism. The more we work, the more we spend. The more we spend, the harder we have to work. And the cycle goes on and on. And thus the Christmas consumer season ends up lasting far longer than just the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It starts a couple of months before that these days, and it lasts a couple of months past Christmas to pay for all those items. So we’re actually looking at a commercial season that spans four to five months. Nearly half a year.
But is all this bad? Don’t we all benefit from this commercial frenzy, the propping up of our economy based on a holiday season? I suppose we do, in a way. But I also say if we were not so focused on spending so much at this one time of the year, businesses wouldn’t be so dependent on the season, and maybe the spending would spread to other months as well. And most importantly, I do think that the degree to which Christmas commercialism has gotten out of hand is definitely impacting our sense of real human values, which has less to do with spending money and more to do with giving in a non-monetary way. But these days that is not a value anyone applauds.
Somewhere along the way, consumerism became the meaning of Christmas.