It seems that almost every holiday has lost all the original meaning that was once behind it. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, to name a few, have all become days of mass commercialism. As a child, my mentality, like many others, had been very egocentric. Everything was about me and if I got the most presents or the most expensive presents then that meant that I was superior to my peers. But now that I’ve had a chance to study the ideologies that underlie the basis of society, I can see how flawed that thinking was. To begin with, it was not even my money; it was the money of my parents. Their wealth did not necessarily equate to mine. Even if I stood to inherit everything, if I didn’t put myself to good use that money would be entirely spent in less time than you could say “Merry Christmas.”
The other day I heard something on the radio that really made me think and resulted in me writing this rant. The host said, “Make the gift from Santa something modest and reserve the big, expensive gifts from you because how do you explain to your child and have them explain to their classmate why Santa gave them an xbox while their classmate only got a pair of socks, all that their parents could afford.” This was really important to me because it was something I had never thought of. For so many years, it just seemed intuitive to make the expensive, luxurious gifts come from Santa, while parents provided more practical gifts. But now that I think of it, the reaction would have been exactly the same. Assuming that everyone knows by this time that Santa is really just you buying things under an assumed name. And that’s exactly what consumerist society has taught us. We purchase and give gifts as a way to put others into debt, to make them in someway indebted to us (thanks cultural anthropology for teaching me that), but giving gifts would not be fulfilling if it wasn’t for the reaction we receive. Now I’m sure there are some people who don’t give gifts for that purpose and I shouldn’t generalize, but most people do. I mean what fun would it be if you got the best gift for someone and all they said was “oh cool thanks” and put it aside. You would be heartbroken and worrying whether or not they like your gift. Even if the other person faked their enthusiasm, that is satisfaction enough.
Christmas isn’t about buying the most expensive gifts on the market. It’s about the irreplaceable time spent with loved ones. Everything is transient and you can never have what you had before. As sad as a thought this may be, it is reality. The aesthetes and decadents of the 1890s taught me that much. The transience of people, of events makes them all the more important. If you had things forever, they would cease to be beautiful, cease to hold the same awe, and importance to you. Holidays are about creating memories, cherishing loved ones, and I’m really disappointed that this is what so many holidays have now become.