Peace and love in plastic wrapping

Americans should spend more time with people around them

by Kathryn Pinto, staff

Walking through Home Depot after Halloween, you will be bombarded by holiday lights and blow-up Santa Clauses. At midnight Nov. 1, the stores are dazzled in mistletoe and lights, zombies transformed instantaneously into Frosty the Snowman. 

At no time do we purchase more gifts than during the holiday season. From around mid-November to January, the average American spends around $1,000 on the holidays, according to Investopedia. 

Why do we spend so much? 

It adds up quickly. Toys, fuzzy socks, and everything in between, to show our connection between people. If we purchase, we are good relatives. Gifts represent our requirements to each other. Our obligation to show connection between people. Businesses profit off that feeling of needing to buy something. Yes, that’s how business works. But, let me tell you during December corporations push it into hyperdrive. 

Family has become increasingly associated with gifts, the ideal American woman in a snowy driveway kissing her husband next to a white Lexus with a bow on top. Oh, that and a dog. A golden retriever puppy with a bow on top. New iPhones, Verizon plans, save by switching to T-Mobile, save more by switching back to Verizon, all laced with tinsel. Everything lands with the perfect family, receiving the perfect gifts. 

It’s true, I love the holiday season. My favorite time every year is sitting on the floor watching the fire crackle, my dad bringing out his guitar for a rare concert, despite his tendonitis. My favorite part was never actually opening gifts. It was so complicated. A sense of awkward disappointment came as a child on Christmas morning, when the floor was covered in wrapping paper, I would be once again reminded of the distance between me and so much of my family.

I was appreciative, sure, but half of my presents went to Goodwill soon after. It really seemed a bit of a waste. Not to mention the plastic, the floor covered in disposable wrapping, strewn with the casing and packaging and cartridges and bags of everything around my living room. The lights and holiday decorations my family and I had carefully put up consumed in a pile of hardened oil. 

For me, Christmas morning was like a plastic bomb went off. 

And the aftermath of opening presents, the next step in the process becomes returns. Nordstrom, Macy’s and all of the above crowded with the actually-it-didn’t-work and actually-I-didn’t-want-it. People standing in lines with whining kids, the last part of holiday shopping and packed malls, the tail end of once-a-year consumer chaos. 

Sometimes, I think growing up is realizing that people are far more than gifts. The origin of the holiday season is in people, and celebration with people. Of course I like to get gifts, but sometimes it’s just a lot, and sometimes perhaps our money would be better spent on thoughtful things that connect us to each other, helping and assisting others rather than overconsuming.

It’s a different line for everyone. I agree. But maybe we just spend time with people rather than spending so much time with presents.