Don’t catch the Christmas consumerism craze

Every+year%2C+an+increasing+number+of+Americans+are+pulled+into+the+Christmas+scheme+of+spending+money+on+lavish+gifts+to+impress+family+and+friends+as+they+disregard+the+true+meaning+behind+holiday+gift-giving.

Graphic illustration by Jasmine Rihal

Every year, an increasing number of Americans are pulled into the Christmas scheme of spending money on lavish gifts to impress family and friends as they disregard the true meaning behind holiday gift-giving.

Amy Liu

The day after Halloween, homogenous marketing greets shoppers in each store: Posters and signs glare at passersby from front windows, holiday music screams in customers’ ears and mountains of Christmas goods at entrances beg to be bought. Every year, an increasing number of Americans are pulled into the Christmas scheme of spending money on lavish gifts to impress family and friends as they disregard the true meaning behind holiday gift-giving. 

Christmas was first celebrated for the winter solstice and the birth of Jesus Christ, but today, it is celebrated by both Christians and non-Christians worldwide as a commercial sensation. As early as two months before the holiday, stores begin selling Christmas products to build excitement for the holiday.

“In the U.S., Christmas is about overdoing it on gifts,” Spanish teacher Kim Revilla said. “Basically, it’s just a fest of excess.”

The Christmas industry is huge in order to meet the demands of holiday shoppers. Christmas retail sales have been on the climb since 2018, and in 2021, they are expected to reach a whopping $843.4 billion. The increased consumption of goods during this time is detrimental to the environment. 

According to a study done by Stanford University, Americans throw away 25 million tons of trash from Thanksgiving to New Years, 25% more than any other period of the year. Much of the waste comes from Christmas decorations such as wrapping paper and ribbons. To do their part in reducing this waste, consumers should reuse or recycle decorations and seek biodegradable options to minimize waste.

Hanging Christmas lights that turn neighborhoods into festive, glowing winter wonderlands are also a tradition for the holidays. Despite the beauty they bring, electricity consumption is at an all-time high during the holiday season. The U.S. uses an average of 6.63 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity during the Christmas period annually, far more than any country in the world. Christmas lights are typically chains of incandescent light bulbs, which produce more heat, burn out faster and require a higher wattage than led-emitting diode lights, a more environmentally friendly alternative. 

“For our house, we’ve tried to use energy efficient lights,” Revilla said. “Even the decorative lights we have on the outside of our house are usually LEDs, so they last a long time.”

For most Americans, interior decorations consist of stockings, ornaments and Christmas trees. Contrary to popular belief, artificial trees are actually worse for the environment than real trees. Real Christmas trees are biodegradable, recyclable and sustainable, whereas the artificial trees are made of plastic and steel, materials that eventually end up in the landfill. Although artificial trees can render lesser environmental impacts if reused for five years or more, they cannot be recycled once discarded. Real Christmas trees can be bought from tree lots or home improvement retailers, such as Home Depot and Costco. 

Because of how crucial shopping, decorating and gift-giving are to the Christmas experience, consumers feel pressured to purchase more expensive products to gift.

“The Christmas culture pressures people to give a gift to others in order to show that they care about them,” sophomore Shovan Jagadev said. “That creates an unnecessary pressure for people to buy an expensive gift for those they care about. It also creates the idea that your attachment to other people is based on how much money you’re able to spend on them, which is inherently flawed.”

By focusing on monetary value of gifts, gift givers fail to consider factors such as usefulness. A study by Groupon revealed that one in six gifts are left untouched after Jan. 1. According to a study by Censuswide, 46% of Americans have lied about liking a gift. 

However, gifts do not have to be expensive, store-bought or tangible in order to be memorable and likeable. A heartfelt card, a homemade present or a warm experience can also brighten one’s Christmas and create long-lasting memories.

“I tend to choose gifts that people will find useful or relevant, and not necessarily something that’s expensive or super trendy,” junior Edward Sha said. “I’ll try to find something that they’ll actually use or remember. I also always think of something meaningful to write on a card, because that’s more valuable than any gift I can buy.” 

Another way to avoid stressing over the cost of a gift is to consider what the gift-receiver would find useful or special. This can be determined by simply asking them what they need or observing their passions. 

“A meaningful gift comes from somebody who knows you well,” Revilla said. “Pay attention when you’re out with them and what they see in a shop, or make a mental note of their hobbies and interests. A gift doesn’t have to be super expensive — it just has to have some meaning behind it.” 

This Christmas, gift with the purpose of celebrating and appreciating your loved ones rather than breaking the bank. Christmas traditions can and should be continued without heavy spending or worrying about expectations.