A Very Commercial Christmas

by Jana Seal, Copy Editor

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Originally published in Vol. 15 No. 2 of The Rock

     Nov. 2, 2018. This is the day that Starbucks began using holiday cups– which means that on and before Halloween, employees were unpacking festive cups, bags, menus and decorations. A once two-day holiday has evolved into a two-month one, overshadowing Thanksgiving and even Halloween. So why, you ask, did the city start stringing lights between evergreens in mid-October? It’s all thanks to the commercialization of Christmas.

     The commercialization of Christmas has happened right in front of our eyes. In order to maximize market potential of decorations, gifts, and other holiday products, corporations have adopted the strategy of prolonging the holiday season’s lifespan. By provoking excitement and anticipation for Christmas for a longer period of time, more goods will be sold simply because of the time of year and the packaging that matches it. This idea was one employed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, when he moved Thanksgiving to be the second to last Thursday of November, rather than the last Thursday. Following the American Stock Market crash in 1929, the Great Depression swept the country and left the economy in shambles– and consequently, in order to boost the economy, the president moved back Thanksgiving in order to increase market potential for gifts. 

     A population can only be taken advantage of when they are susceptible- so what makes us as a society feel such a need to spend an exorbitant amount of money on gifts? The answer lies within the principles of reciprocity. 

“Norms are rules that you follow in society, and reciprocity norms are the rules that if somebody does something for you, you respond by doing that same thing in return,”AP Psychology teacher Katie Lemeshewsky said. “A lot of times people look at price value, and they’re like, ‘You know, I spent a lot of money so I want you to spend a lot of money on me too,’ so I definitely think commercialization has blown up. People buy a lot more because there’s that expectation that you feel guilt if you don’t reciprocate. Unfortunately the idea of giving just to give is being lost.”

     The holidays are a time to spend with family, friends and ourselves. It is a time to love, appreciate and give. Those ideals have snowballed into the manifestation of a society that values gifts over the connections that they’re meant to represent. The idea of a relationship over the relationship itself. When done with the best intention, gift giving is essentially a way to project appreciation through material items. It’s the communication that one is “worth” another’s hard earned money. However, when those same connections are reinforced through words and non-monetary actions, frugal spending and exorbitant gift giving aren’t necessary at all. Living in a place like Highlands Ranch or Castle Pines, we absolutely do not need to receive a bombardment of gifts. The commercialization of Christmas and other December holidays can be an obscuring factor of the big picture– but try not to let it. By giving into gross over-amplification of value affordance based on monetary effort in gift giving, we give large corporations what they want– complacency. Complacency is in the ascendant as the primary killer of empathy, human experience and truth. So break the mold. Don’t settle for bureaucratic normalities as you wouldn’t if they were negatively affecting you– give as you would if you were the one who needed it most. Below are some of my favorite charities– ones that I think would be great to donate portions of your Christmas or Hanukkah money to.

International Rescue Committee (IRC) | Yemen- War-torn Yemen is being bombed literally and figuratively, with, respectively, U.S. supplied weapons and diseases such as cholera and diptheria. The IRC is on the ground in Yemen providing urgent medical and nutritional aid to the affected children and their families.

Donate here: https://help.rescue.org/donate/yemen-crisis?initialms=ws_modl_fy19_yemen_es_181204&ms=ws_modl_fy19_yemen_es_181204

Green Empowerment- Donations are used to build defense against the worsening environmental and political climates’ effects on people by providing access to clean water, sanitation and renewable energy in rural communities.

Donate here: https://www.greenempowerment.org/donate/

Charity: Water- Donations are used to build wells in 3rd world African countries where water is otherwise attained by women who spend their days and lives walking to find and bring it to their families. This really frees up these women to pursue something meaningful with their lives and nurture their families.

Donate here: https://www.charitywater.org/donate