OPINION: Holidays co-opted by commercialization — is nothing sacred?
Free Press Opinion Columnists
HE SAID: My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I wish it lasted longer than one day. I like a day of thanks and sharing with family. But it has become just another reason to make an extra buck off of consumers.
Opening stores on Thanksgiving forces employees to work on a holiday, detracting from their family life. The shopping distracts people from the sense of community that can be strengthened during Thanksgiving. Most stores started Christmas weeks ago, even before Halloween. We are bombarded with some of the most disgusting commercials to try to get us to buy more than we can afford.
An example are ads picturing crazed Black Friday shoppers shoving people around and a shopper saying, “I am the best auntie, ever,” after spending a bundle on tablets and cell phones. We are setting the young up for more debt and less happiness by spending and spending on merchandise instead of encouraging things like saving and sharing the gifts of love. Is there any solution to this or is the holiday frenzy going to last all year long, just like the election cycle?
SHE SAID: The only thing missing are robo-calls about shopping deals so Christmas holiday merchants have not stooped quite as low as the electioneers. I was disgusted when major box stores made the decision to be open on Thanksgiving Day, although the trend started a couple of years ago with some stores being open on Christmas Day.
Our Japanese friend observed many times that Americans have trouble sitting quietly for periods of time. It is like we do not know how to relax, be silent and take stock of our lives for a few hours. It makes us nervous.
Sure, Thanksgiving dinners can be stressful and full of drama depending upon the dysfunction of the families involved, but will it hurt us to stay out of the stores for 24 hours? What are we really doing when we choose to shop on a holiday, squandering precious time we could give to each other or other needy people in the community? It was bad enough when our son had to go into work at a retailer at three in the morning on Black Friday. That took some of the zest out of the Thanksgiving togetherness.
Now, families and individuals will have to decide if they are going to play the retailers’ game and run like Pavlov’s dogs, slobbering down the aisles to the deals on the 28th. This holiday erosion will not stop until we decide not to succumb like hungry trout to the lure. I will not shop on Thanksgiving, and furthermore, I will boycott the stores that open on Thanksgiving for any of our Christmas shopping.
Maybe if more of us refuse to show up and spend, big business will reconsider their strategies. Maybe you can start work on that collection of recipes you have been wanting to write down for our children. That gift would mean more to them than anything we could buy. Let’s get back to breaking bread together instead of breaking our bank accounts on Thanksgiving.
HE SAID: I think you are on to something in all that rambling. Maybe what the baby boomers can leave as a heritage to this country is a quiet rebellion against the mercantile machine. Years ago, our families came to agreements not to send everyone outside the nuclear family another doodad that they don’t need. Not only does that save dollars but it saves a lot of stress. Besides, the American Psychological Association says that 22% of our country reports extreme stress at holiday time. We are making ourselves sick.
According to the APA, we can all overcome this media/mercantile-induced stress by taking time for ourselves, volunteering, remembering what is important, seeking support from others and having realistic expectations. Wouldn’t it be the true gift to our family to give them a model of happiness and peace instead of a clone of a stressed out, indebted wacko, burned out over the holidays?
SHE SAID: You are already bucking the trend by helping my brother cook the Thanksgiving dinner. We women salute you and promise to cream you men at Trivial Pursuit later that day once we clean up the mess you make in the kitchen!
The Skinners hope your Thanksgiving can be a time of togetherness and generosity of the non-retail kind. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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