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An Irresponsible Christmas

It’s easy to see when we’ve arrived at the “holiday-shopping season.” Take a look around: The shopping malls are packed with herds of consumers. The storefronts are decorated in green and red. The jingly commercials are running nonstop.

The holiday season has much to recommend it, though: each year around this time we all feel that warm-‘n’-fuzzy Christmastime nostalgia associated with the onset of winter. We break out the scarves, the gloves, the winter coats. We go ice skating, we go sledding, we eat hearty meals with our extended families. We take days off work, spend time with our loved ones, give thanks for the gift of life.

The problem is we’ve been conditioned to associate this joyous time of year—the mittens, the decorations, the family activities—with purchasing material items. We’ve trained ourselves to believe buying stuff is part of Christmas.

We all know, however, the holidays needn’t require gifts to be special; rather, this time of year is special because of its true meaning—not the wrapped boxes we place under the tree.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with gifts, but it’s irresponsible for us to believe that purchasing presents is a holiday requirement. Let’s instead celebrate the infinite gifts all around us. Even without presents, we have everything we need to be jolly, merry, and joyous on Christmas.

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.