Tis’ the season to lose your mind! I love the holidays, but not the extreme consumerism that has taken the place of the true reason for the season. For me, it’s about spending time with family and friends, eating well and celebrating another year of life. For many others, it is about the excess that comes with the gift-giving aspect. Case in point: People chose to forego time with their families on Thanksgiving to camp out extra early for Black Friday and workers were forced to work the holiday. It’s all gotten so ridiculous.
Last week, my sister-friend, who has two young children both under the age of five and I were talking about her Christmas shopping. Granted, she and her husband do very well, but when she told me her Christmas shopping budget was $10,000.00, I almost fell out of my chair. And, that was just for the kids. I had to ask: “Have you lost your damn mind?”
Believe it or not, my sister-friend didn’t think that was extravagant. I couldn’t believe she would even consider spending that kind of money on kids who would never remember any of the gifts. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t remember anything under the age of five except for a glimpse here and there. I most definitely don’t remember my Christmas gifts, which were probably all broken by March anyway.
So, I asked her, “What will they have to look forward to if you’re spending this kind of money on them now? Unfortunately, my sister-friend is just a representation of the collective insanity that has become the benchmark for the Christmas season. People go into debt that will take them years to pay off for gifts. For what? It’s a temporary, material high that fades when the bills show up in January. And, even if you don’t go into debt, is it really the gift that is important or the giver.
But, this type of excess is celebrated all around us. Beyonce reportedly bought Jay-Z the most expensive watch in the world, estimated between $3 million and $5 million, for his birthday. That followed her gift of a jet for Father’s Day. With a new $50 million contract with Pepsi, Beyonce can afford it, but is it really that serious? (Don’t get me started on the old MTV reality show My Super Sweet 16 show and the lunacy displayed there!)
It’s not about the gifts, but rather, it’s about the message it sends. Placing so much importance on the material discredits not only the point of celebrating Christmas, but also when it comes to children, it doesn’t send the right value message. My best friends, who are both well off, have the more sensible approach. Their kids still have unopened birthday and Christmas gifts hidden away because they get so much. “They can get them next year. They already have too many toys and things,” they’ve both been known to say.
As I have grown up, I’ve received fewer gifts, but that has no effect on my pure enjoyment for the season. What I remember most is the time spent with family; it’s even what I remember most from my childhood. I can tell you about card games and funny situations better than I can about actual presents I received. I think we all need to take a pause and tell Santa Claus to calm down. Who’s with me?
Wishing you love and ceaseless joy! Follow @NathanHWilliams on Twitter.
Nathan’s book INSPIRATION: Profiles of Black Women Changing Our World is available now.