Here we are, in the midst of what is supposedly the most joyous time of year: the holiday season. And yet, for most of us, it’s also the most stressful time of year. At some point Santa Claus turned corporate, and the holiday season metamorphosed into the holiday shopping season.
Shopping. This one word, although birthed from great intentions, has fundamentally changed our outlook from blissful to grim, from jolly to anxious, from celebrating Christmas to surviving the holidays. It’s upsetting, and with consumption’s vicious inertia, it seems there’s no way for us to exit the speeding train of consumerism.
This Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year: Black Friday. (Boxing Day is the overseas equivalent.) Retailers prepare months in advance for this dark day—preparation that’s meant to stimulate our insatiable desire to consume: Doorbuster sales. New products. Gigantic newspaper ads. TV, radio, billboards. Sale, sale, sale! Early bird specials! One day only! Get the best deal! Act now! While supplies last. See store for details.
But as shiny as its facade may be, the pernicious aspects of Black Friday are not few. The pandemonium that takes place on this day is perhaps a broader metaphor for our culture as a whole—our consumer culture. On this day we consume gluttonously without regard for the harm we’re inflicting on ourselves. On this day greed becomes ravenous. On this day we live without real meaning, buying gifts to fill a void we can’t fill with material possessions.
Perhaps Steven said it best: Black Friday is the day we trample people for things we don’t need, the day after being thankful for what we have.
Sadly, we participate in this insanity in the name of a holiday, as if buying gifts was an ideal way to celebrate Christmas. But thankfully we have options.
Instead of embracing Black Friday, you can refuse to buy material items for people to display your love; rather, you can showcase your love, caring, and affection through daily actions—every day, not just holidays.
If you want to give gifts, why not gift an experience: a nice meal, tickets to a concert, a sunset on the beach? After all, the best, most loving gift you can give someone is your time and undivided attention. Presence is the best present.
Or, if that doesn’t work, maybe you can buy everyone on your Christmas list a giant trash can so they can throw away all the presents they received, but didn’t ask for.
Will you join us? Will you opt out of Black Friday? If not, why not?
If you found value in this essay, regift it to your friends and family.