Can We Buy Meaning During The Holidays?

by The Happy Rock on December 16, 2007


Consumers planned holiday-related spending increased to $923.36” in 2007. Gift card spending alone was 24 billion dollars last year while the national spending average rises about 4.76% year after year.

The money that gets tossed around on Christmas is staggering. Debt  keeps us paying for Christmas well into the New Year. Gifts are often relegated to impersonal gift cards, because we don’t know what else to buy. We keep on buying though. Stress and frantic running are hallmarks of the season. Sometimes you can’t wait until it’s all over, so you can rest and recover.

I often wonder if we don’t spend ourselves into a frenzy to cover over our lack for the deeper things in life. Do we buy more to cover the lack of depth in our relationships with friends, children, and spouses? Do we spend enough time telling and showing people how valuable they are the rest of the year or are we trying to recover from a deficit with gifts? Maybe we don’t feel like the holidays have much meaning, so we buy to try to imbue the holidays with meaning through consumerism. I am not saying all or any of this is true, but I think it might be worth asking the questions.

Does it have to be this way? For those that want something more, what can we do?

Sources :

  1. National Retail Federation(NRF) Report
  2. NRF – Holdays Sales
  3. NRF – Gift Cards

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Double Eagle December 16, 2007 at 1:50 am

Holiday consumerism is a sad state of affairs in our society. Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries. The list goes on.

Gift giving stops being a sign of fellowship and becomes an obligation and huge burden.

Parents feel the need to spend more and more to make their children “happy”.

In some ways, I think these things can be a lack of depth in relationships, like you say.

On the other hand, when these things become “expected”, then it’s difficult to change the way we deal with these occasions. You would think that truly deep relationships with family and friends would allow a person to truly believe that “it’s the thought that counts”, but I think human nature is different.

If a person typically overspends on gifts, then suddenly stops that trend and instead gives modest gifts or cards or no gifts at all, then how will those family members or friends react? If relationships are truly deep, then you’d think all would be well.

Maybe I’m cynical, but I feel like a lot of relationships would suffer, and that’s really a sad circumstance.


plonkee December 16, 2007 at 8:24 am

You could just not spend as much money. Or, even better you could spend time focussing on your relationships with friends and family. If the thought of doing so doesn’t seem worth it, then you have an answer of sorts.


Thecpa December 16, 2007 at 1:23 pm

Happy Rock,

A very insightful post. It seems that consumerism is what keeps our economy rolling along. It’s expected. The advertising all pushes us into the latest gadgets, gewgaws and toys. Our children are inundated with all the ads on the latest toy wonder. They expect that new toy to be under the tree on Christmas day. How can we resist it all?

On a personal note the most important thing to us during Christmas and the whole year are family and friends. It appears that this puts us in a minority. Gifts are secondary. We actually put a dollar limit on what we will spend for individual gifts this year. And we must pay cash, nothing on the credit card. (Your posts have had a positive impact on us.) We personally think that hand made gifts are the most wonderful and cherished.

We truly believe that it’s the thought that counts. And that it is better to give than to receive. Surely we are not in the minority with those sentiments.

A very merry Christmas to you, The Rockette and your little Pebble.


The Happy Rock December 18, 2007 at 11:39 pm

@Double Eagle – I agree that the reality of the situation is that there are real people involved. You will have hurt feeling, frustration, resentment. The idea is to start some dialogs that try to change behavior and deepen relationships. If you are deep in debt, and can’t spend money at Christmas, it may be necessary to sit people down individually, admit you mistakes, and explain the situation. Something like that should help bring people closer, and change your spending habits.

@plonkee – I agree the answer is simple in theory, but in reality relationships can be messy. I know from experience that people’s feeling do get hurt, and changes are often hard in these situations. It takes courage, patience, honesty,and love from the person initiating(and that might not even be enough).

@Thecpa – Thanks for the wishes. It is encouraging to see families changed, hopefully this Christmas will be the best ever. You have made a strong statement that your relationships are more than gifts and money.


smartmove December 27, 2007 at 3:14 am

Gift buying and giving should never be a burden. Doesn’t it entails the feeling of warmth and excitement for the season of giving? If it doesn’t, then the very purpose of sharing is defeated. There are smart ways to help ease out the frantic situations we experience before the holidays so we can enjoy being with our family. It is a matter of wise time management throughout the year.


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