Does Consumerism really equal Happy Holidays?

You could probably guess that I am a “Merry Christmas” kind of girl. I tell everyone I see about this time of year, Merry Christmas, at least if I don’t expect to see them again before the big day. A subtle reminder at the symbolism of the day and the celebration of the life that blesses us with salvation. (If you don’t believe that’s between you and God, not you and me.)

Anyway, I have been thinking lately (every time I pile the toys in the bins) how much we (communal we as in anyone in the western world) waste at Christmas time. It’s maddening.

I am not trying to bring anyone down off their Christmas high. So, if you don’t want to hear something that might do that, then close the blog now please.

Kinda, sorta, but really it's - Merry Christmas!

Here’s the thing…

I am an American girl. I grew up with the big Christmas’. We had lots of gifts under the tree. We baked cookies. We went caroling. We had a fabulous Christmas!

This is not MY childhood Christmas tree, but this is how I felt

At least I think I did…then I grew up.

I don’t think I am wrong in wondering what happened to Christmas. These days it seems as though we are concerned more with the latest gadgets then the palpable feeling of community. The giving spirit. The love for our fellow man.

I’m dumbfounded.

Yesterday, while watching a Christmas movie on one of the family channels I was physically sickened by an Amazon commercial. I love Amazon, but the commercial – in light of the financial situation of many in the world – was disgusting.

I am pretty sure it was Amazon, anyway, it was an ad for one of the e-readers. It goes something like this…a guy is talking to the screen and a girl walks up and says look what I got so and so for just $79. That was all well and good, but she had 2 of them. He asked about the second one, she said something along the lines of “What? It was only $79!”

Granted that is true…it is only $79.

Many people have the ability to spend like that. Especially around Christmas time. But what would that same $79 (I’m not including taxes and shipping) mean to someone else?

  • A weeks worth of groceries.
  • A paid electric bill.
  • Gas to get to work for a week or two.
  • Clothes to replace the ones that are tattered and torn.
  • That could be enough to have a Christmas dinner.
  • It would be enough to buy the gifts to make Christmas brighter for a child.
  • That could buy three boxes of Angel Food for someone in need.

The reality of life is that while some people’s life situations are fantastic and they are able to pump hundreds (and even thousands of dollars) into the economy this time of year, many are struggling. Many can’t afford groceries for next week. Many don’t have a tree because that would increase their light bill so they just tell there kids that we are going to have a less traditional Christmas this year.

People across the United States are struggling to make it to their next paycheck, and they are faced with the constant murmur of BUY, BUY, BUY! Did you finish your Christmas shopping this year? Have you started? HOW much did you spend?


Why do we as a group seem to make how much we spend matter? Why do we always have to one up the next guy or ourselves? Why does each year have to be better than the last? What would happen if while your children were young they learned the importance of the simple things?

What would happen if Santa brought them ONE present a year?

What would happen?

Would the world end because you saw to the importance of their character, more than the importance of items? No, but I think the world would evolve into a better place. More grounded.

Planting your feet firmly on the ground and realizing that racking up credit card debt or taking out a loan for Christmas gifts is just not worth it. What do you gain in this? What does your child gain? Do they get more time with you or do you have to get a second job or request overtime to pay the bill back?

What do we gain with the waste from the unused toys that eventually get tossed out?

As a minimalist I don’t think we should have so much stuff. You don’t need a room full of new stuff if you already have a room full of stuff that you don’t use. I try to point this out to my son, but even he doesn’t understand. He has learned from somewhere that to be cool you must have this, or this, or this.

Not every parent can afford those things. Not every parent that can afford them is willing to buy them. Not every parent spoils their child the same way.

My boys are spoiled. They are spoiled by me. I spend as much time as humanly possible with them. We watch movies together. We go to the beach. We play in mud puddles. We go to the park and ride the swings together…well they ride, I push. We go swimming and when Michael is old enough we will start camping and floating down the river on a canoe. They are spoiled by love, affection, and respect.

Christmas is a season of love and forgiveness. A season where we are supposed to look outside ourselves and see the bigger picture. A season to take a vacation and spend quality fun-filled time with our families. What will your kids learn? Will they see that Santa sees to indulging their every want or will they see that you are indulging their every need?

Good luck this season and Merry Christmas!


3 thoughts on “Does Consumerism really equal Happy Holidays?

  1. Simmoni Roper says:

    Megan, If you won the lottery, would you still feel this way? I’m not trying to throw a wrench in things. Trust me on that. I’m just curious. I know that if you did, you would be a very giving person. I am much the same. But, if you were able to spoil your children with material things, would you? Even if it was only every now and then? I grew up very poor. My dad struggled to pay bills, buy groceries, and keep us in decent clothes & shoes. I learned many valuable lessons growing up. When Reagen was born, Eric and I lived pay check to pay check. We didn’t stupidly spend, or rack up debt, or any of the other ridiculous things I see people do this time of year. Now we have worked ourselves into a place where we can splurge on the kids and there is no guilt. No debt. We get them one big gift, and one Santa gift. They usually get pajamas, socks, underwear, etc., too. It doesn’t break us, and we do not play catch up on Christmas debt for half of the year. We donate money and food to families in need. We give to friends and family in need. We try to teach the lesson that it is important to help others who are less fortunate. We have a rule in this house. For every new toy that comes in, the kids have to pick a toy to donate. It is a rule we started at the Kids’ birthdays last year. It is a good way to keep the clutter down, and it teaches the kids to share things they no longer play with. This year Reagen asked Santa for 3 things. A Big Wheel, a giant glow stick, and for him to take cool toys to kids who were poor. I was really proud of him for that. It means that Eric and I are rubbing off on him. I totally know the point you are trying to make about the obsessive spending, the debt, and the total loss of the meaning of Christmas. I am guilty of spoiling my kids this time of year. I do buy bigger, more expensive items. I’m hoping that we give enough balance in their character to learn that you should be able to appreciate things when you have worked hard for them. You also shouldn’t forget the less fortunate when you are doing well. So far, I think the lesson is sticking. My dad used to make tons of food at Christmas. We would have dinner, then drive around and deliver plates to homeless people. We can’t really do that here in Burnet, but that is one of my favorite Christmas memories. My son sees me giving money to homeless people in Austin. I do it and I don’t feel guilty. I don’t care what they spend it on. I’m not concerned about whether or not the person is truly homeless. If I am being taken advantage of, so be it. That is between them, and God. I see a need, I try to ease the burden if I am able. These are the lessons I want my children to learn. It’s okay to be successful, but it isn’t okay to be greedy. It’s okay to enjoy your success, but it isn’t okay to be stingy. That’s what I want them to walk into their adult lives with. I think it’s all about balance.

    • Megan D. says:

      I was thinking about that question while writing this. What would I do if money wasn’t an object? I wouldn’t be buying him everything, but I would spoil him, but I would also temper that with giving freely. Like that story in the Bulletin where the nursing home was requesting visitors and gifts. Several of our FB friends responded and are taking them things and taking their kids. Teaching their kids how to give. I think that I would have my charity going and with that would come a responsibility to the people that I worked with through out the year to help them with their Christmas’.

  2. Tori Nelson says:

    $79 is a chunk of change! I think you are right. Most people spend and spend and expect to receive and receive and somewhere along the way we forget that the shiny gifts are not the point, not even CLOSE to the point of the holiday.

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