Sitting One Out

The annual orgy of consumerism has come and gone. Every year, Americans presumably give thanks for the blessings in their lives on Thanksgiving, then go out to actively participate in one of the weirdest displays of materialism the world has known, beginning on Black Friday and continuing right up until December 26. Every year, I’m more turned off by it all.

Don’t get me wrong, as I love a good deal! I’m a crazy bargain shopper myself—I usually have to be. I enjoy shopping in general, including Christmas shopping. Ever year, I pore over the Christmas candy and decorations pretty much wherever I go, just to see if anything new shows up. (Of course I’m usually disappointed.) But what I see on Black Friday is not a big national sales  event with bargains to be had by all. Instead, I see a manufactured sense of value and urgency deliberately designed to have people grabbing goods without thinking once, much less twice, about what they’re really getting for their money and time.  Hell, I know this because I’ve also fallen for it.

I don’t really mind crowds, either. While I have had to curse a few folks at King of Prussia Mall during the holiday season, I did survive the multitude of humanity at the 2009 Inauguration without incident! Crowds alone are not the problem.

What bugs me most is just the savagery and senselessness of it all. There is no bargain big enough to make me push or be pushed by fellow shoppers. There is no bargain good enough to have me camp out in a parking lot, nor any relationship in my life that would be bettered by going into debt for what typifies “generosity” these days. Most of what’s purchased during the holidays is just cheap plastic crap that will have to be replaced during the next Christmas Orgy. As I get older, I see little else to the entire holiday period. Well, except for the added bonus of manufactured outrage.

I mean, how DARE someone say “Happy Holidays,” a phrase that dates back at least to the 1890s and adopted by businesses as a way to celebrate the entire period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. How bloody dare someone share good wishes for a month-long holiday period, when they could just as easily say “F*ck you,” and move on. People complaining about such nonsense deserve nothing more, and they only further cheapen Christmas, turning it into just another “obligation” by sucking any spontaneity and sincerity from it. They’ve nearly succeeded.

Yes, there are always a few bright spots when the old Christmas feeling shines through. See this surprise performance in Boston that just exudes the joy and peace that used to be Christmas. And the Christmas wishes from Iran’s leadership were a delightful surprise this year. As for me? Well, I didn’t even buy cards or decorate at all. Sure, I saw most of my usual Christmas favorites: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Christmas Vacation, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph. But it still didn’t feel quite right. There just wasn’t enough of a spark to ignite the old Christmas spirit this year, and I pretty much sat this one out. What makes that even sadder is that I don’t feel like I missed anything, either.

I’ll try again next year, perhaps another Christmas in New York.

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