Holiday materialism: Has it gone too far?

Hailey Chaikin

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Why do we receive gifts during the holiday season? The answer lies in traditional religion and is different for each of the three popularly practiced holidays of the winter season: Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Although other aspects of their holiday traditions are different, the gift giving and receiving culture has remained the same throughout the three.

This culture has helped to grow an already commercialized world, as gift giving has become a booming industry. In most families, the original meaning behind the tradition has been lost and the gifts have taken on a holiday of their own. In fact, Psychologist Ken Sheldon and Tim Kassar co-authored a study that found that “the extent of people focused their holiday season around materialistic aims like spending and receiving, the less they were focused on spiritual aims.” They also concluded that “people reported ‘merrier’ Christmases when spirituality was a large part of their holiday, but reported lower Christmas well-being to the extent that the holiday was dominated by materialistic aspects.” This finding can be expanded to all giving holidays.

Showering children with gifts deprives them of something much more valuable; shared experiences and spending time with family. However, children are taught that the holidays equal presents and grow up associating the two. As grown-ups they will only know a Christmas with expensive and extensive gift giving. This leads to a spiraling generation of children who are more excited about the gifts they will be receiving rather than the quality time they will be spending with their families, a rare occasion in our busy lives. According to The Progressive, a site for activism, “kids who are overindulged materially tend to have the worst relationships with their parents.” All in all, money can’t buy love, but it sure can finance some serious familial conflict.

In our increasingly vital financial situation throughout the year, it is ridiculous to spend an extensive amount of money during the holiday season. The average Americans spends more than $1,000 during the holiday season, according to Buy Nothing Christmas-an organization that advocates simplifying the holiday. This is a lot of money to spend when you could be getting something more personal and homemade for much less.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should do away with all holiday gift-giving. A few thoughtful gifts can add a lot to a child’s holiday, but I think we need to redefine giving by shopping less and making for more memorable experiences. After all, a fun activity with family lasts longer than the next new gadget. So this holiday season, instead of buying a $300 drone, take a trip to A.C. Moore and make something D.I.Y. for a more personalized gift.

 

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