Happiness…Now 25% Off!

By Caroline Collison

The holiday season is upon us. Or, as that carol—the one on radio in late November
that plays over and over until you want to pull your cochleae out—goes, “It’s beginning
to look a lot like Christmas.” Stores have been receiving a rapid influx of holiday
items, along with a rapid influx of sales. Every chain store in the country is packed to
the gills with Christmas-themed paraphernalia. Red, green and silver tinsel glimmers
scintillatingly, driving that little “ooh, shiny” detector in our brains nearly mad. Shelves
are stocked with toys, chocolates, confections, useless decorations, jewelry, gadgets,
countless doo-dads and baubles. Piles of singing, battery-operated elves that only a
grandmother or a four-year-old with ADHD could love. Gangrene peppermint candies
that seem to be at least fifty years old and feel like pliers on your teeth. Everything you
could never need, “but it’s just so darn cute.”

Along with the daily newspaper, Americans receive copious amounts of fliers and
catalogues. There’s advertising on the radio. On TV. In magazines. On the streets.
Everywhere in sight. 50% off this, buy one get one free of that, huge blowout sale here,
all your holiday needs there, get it now, while supplies last, buy, buy, buy. It has gotten
to the point where this “gimme gimme” concept has overshadowed the true spirit of
Christmas. Now it seems like everyone celebrates it, spreading to Atheists and agnostics
along with Christians. I’m not trying to sound like a Jesus freak, but it is, by definition,
a celebration of Christ’s birth. More and more, it’s not about that anymore, just spending
and getting. In fact, I’ve started calling it “Non-Denominational Consumerist American
Indulgence Day.”
Children are encouraged to develop a desire for material things, listing what they want in
a letter to “Santa.” You know, that jolly fat man in a red suit who doesn’t actually exist
(unbeknownst to our younger selves). Come on, the Santa we know is from a Coca-Cola
ad. If that doesn’t scream Consumerist America, I don’t know what does. Greed and false
values seem to fester everywhere, and their shining faces draw the attention of young
American eyes. They are disguised as toys, electronics and things people could surely
do without. Every year, billions of dollars go to things under a tree for these “eager little
cherubs,” excited and full of good cheer and spirit. That is, until they start screaming
because they didn’t get a surround-sound home theater system and a pony.
People say Christmas is about giving. People say it’s about celebrating the birth of Jesus
Christ. People say it’s a time of sharing, community, good tidings and love. While I don’t
believe that people should force an idea of Jesus Christ being one’s lord and savior, I
don’t believe that money should be one’s lord and savior either. At Christmas, giving
should be a smile, shared happiness, your love, or something to somebody in need. In
giving, we are sharing love and fellowship with one another. Giving does not mean
buying an iPhone for your son or daughter. Giving doesn’t have to involve money or
tangible items. Have all of these ideals become mere flotsam and jetsam in a sea of
I confess, my eyes used to light up when I saw a mound of gifts under the tree, all for
yours truly. But over the course of this past year, I’ve realized that they don’t mean so
much to me anymore. I no longer have a burning desire for attaining more and more
things. They are not the true meaning of Christmas. Sure, they provide thrills for a while
and help pass the idle hours. But now, I feel like a regular spoiled, consumerist American

teenager when I receive a gift. It’s something that I truly don’t need, and the money spent
on the item could have gone to a much more worthy cause. We all know what these
causes are, and we know that there are millions of people out there who are in dire need
of help. So why do we continue to purchase golf clubs and Zhu-Zhu Pets for each other?
This holiday season, I am going to focus on community and care. I don’t desire gadgets
and to pass the idle hours. What matters most for me is love, fellowship and good spirit.
Perhaps this seems cliché, but it’s what counts in the long run. Fads and frivolities may
come and go, but love and kindness will never become obsolete. I encourage anyone else
who wishes to join me to do so. And if you choose to buy gifts as a tradition, remember
this: it is best to give generously from the heart, and not from the wallet. Sharing
appreciation and love with someone is worth more than anything that money could buy.

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