Thanksgiving has passed, and now, the Christmas season is upon us. For many people, this time of year brings a great deal of stress over what to buy for their loved ones. People are not only worried about purchasing the right present, but also purchasing a nice one. My question is this: Why? Gift-giving should be a happy gesture between loved ones, not a dollar-fueled stress fest where you are expected to max your credit card on the perfect gift for every person you’ve ever interacted with.
Personally, my favorite gifts haven’t been large tech pieces or expensive clothes. They’ve been homemade or symbolic sentimental gifts someone has given me. The best gifts are the gifts that show the person knows you well and pays attention to your life and interests. I really think that things like laptops, new phones or even just cash are a little soulless. Anyone could buy you that anywhere; no time or care went into it. Yet, these are seen as great gifts purely because they’re expensive. What sentimental value does money have? If we all decided tomorrow that we didn’t want to use it anymore, it would literally mean nothing. Money would be meaningless slips of paper floating in the wind.
On the subject of gift costs, there is also a weird competition every year over who spent the most on who. It really takes the joy out of the holiday if everyone just focuses on whether they spent enough on someone or whether someone spent enough on them. Different people have different financial means, so someone could buy you an iPhone and it means literally nothing, while another person could buy you a candle with all the money they had.
I think a large part of this holiday guilt can be contributed to Christmas advertisements. Children see the kids on TV with the newest phone and shoes and expect those things from “Santa,” not knowing their parents are footing the bill. I think ads intentionally take advantage of this. They know a parent doesn’t want to disappoint their child, so they target their marketing directly at the children. This doesn’t just apply to kids, though. There are countless commercials featuring a husband buying his wife a new car and vice versa. This is a ridiculous notion. I don’t know anyone who could afford a new car as a Christmas present. But because of these ads, people feel insufficient and think they have to spend hundreds of dollars for it to be a good Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, there may be some people who Google the cost of their presents or count the gifts to compare them to last year, but if anyone in your life is like that, they’ve missed the concept of the holiday entirely, and you shouldn’t worry about them. This time of year, we all need to take a break from the stress and bustle of day-to-day life and enjoy what the season is all about: happy times and spreading our love.