October 24, 2021

Is Holiday Capitalism Causing our Unhappiness?

It is all over the news! Shortages of basic needs such as our favorite holiday foods to prepare feasts of unknown proportions.

It still strikes me as odd that people use the holidays as an excuse to eat more food than necessary only to complain later about how they use the gained pounds as yet another item on their New Year list of resolutions (again).

Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the specially prepared meals during the holiday season just like anyone else, but also wish meals and get-togethers were more common year-around versus being saved for specific dates. Life’s too short!

In addition to food supply shortages, we are now also alarmed by media channels of the extremely limited supply of Halloween costumes, Christmas trees, and of course, the gifts themselves. Are they trying to make us feel bad, even inferior, by indicating we are not keeping up with the Joneses if we don’t start shopping now or during summer?

One media anchor specifically stated, “Talk to your children about being flexible!” What? If we need to talk to our children about being flexible when it comes to their presents on their wish list, then we are having an entirely different problem. It’s a wish list for a reason; just because we wish for something does not mean we actually get it. It’s called real life.

Yes, as parents, we want to make our kids happy, and this might include fulfilling all their wishes. Clearly, the old statement of “I want my kids to have a better life than me” is passed down directly or indirectly from generation to generation.

The holiday season is stressful enough, but now media networks are encouraging us to buy everything now, so we (our family, friends, and kids) don’t miss out on our loved ones’ smiles from ear to ear while unwrapping all the items they wished for.

Certainly, there is some truth to the shortage due to delivery delays and stranded supply containers, but can we pause for a moment and reassess the situation of “forced” capitalism? What ever happened to the actual meaning of the holiday season? Coming together and maybe sharing homemade gifts?

As we get older, I find that we have many wants, but fewer actual needs. Those wants often end up in the return line at the store, regifting, or in the donation bin. Surely, there is nothing wrong with that, but why would anyone stress over purchasing a gift only for the receiver to later get rid of it somehow?

Are we buying our feeling of momentary bliss and happiness for Christmas morning only?

As soon as the moment of excitement passes, so does our happiness? Are we literally purchasing our next “high” disguised as presents in shiny boxes garnished with glitter and cute bows?

I remember as a child making handmade crafts, cards, pictures, or creating short skits with my brother as a contribution in place of a store-bought object (partly due to lack of money, but also as an offering of something truly thoughtful, and most importantly, meaningful). Remember that feeling of receiving a handwritten letter from a loved one? That feeling we just can’t buy for any amount of money.

It almost feels like we are forced to buy something now just to buy something, as if to have it on hand, just in case! I shall coin this “stress buying out of despair.” Are we lacking more stuff or is it something entirely different?

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a thoughtful, useful, and needed gift just like the next person (trust me, I have been asking for the same gift for over a decade now), but to receive or present a gift merely for the customary gift exchange itself feels awkward and empty at times.

We should not have to talk to our kids about “being flexible” when it comes to holiday gifts. Instead, we need to reconnect with what is important; I’m certain it is not the number of wrapped boxes they get to rip open.

We can create the spirit and ambiance of the holiday season in many different ways. If you don’t have any traditions around the holidays yet, then start now. It’s never too late! And those traditions last far longer and can be shared indefinitely.

Famous, average, rich, poor, or somewhere in between—what we all crave after lockdown and while going through pandemic restrictions is human interaction and connection. Nothing is more joyful, significant, and impactful than the embrace and presence of a loved one we have not been face-to-face with in a long time.

Presents collect dust and get forgotten, but memories, conversations, and stories that made us laugh and cry stay forever.

Happiness starts with the individual—inward to outward—and is independent from material things. Money can make life easier (truth!), but it cannot ever buy you true happiness.





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