The Christmas creep: is it really the most wonderful time of the year?

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“These 10 photos show why Black Friday should be banned in the U.S.”

“Slowly but surely, the Amazon Prime backlash is coming”

“Two men stabbed in New York mall after row broke out at Macy’s”

 

These are just a few of the headlines my newsfeed has been inundated with in the aftermath of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this past weekend.  In the 24-hour period of Black Friday sales alone, 174 million American retail shoppers spent a record $5 billion. The madness, however, doesn’t stop in November.  On Christmas gifts alone, Americans spend more than twice the amount they invest in any other major holiday. That’s before you factor in food, travel, and decor for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.  

As a result of this, the concepts of a “good” Christmas and an expensive Christmas have become synonymous in the modern United States.  The holiday, which once stood for togetherness, generosity, and peace on Earth, now brings most Americans unwarranted amounts of stress and seasonal depression as our winters get harsher and our holidays more expensive.  And at the end of the day, it’s almost all about money.

Another problem with the increasingly capitalist nature of American Christmas is what economists call “The Christmas Creep.”  This describes the phenomenon of Christmas shopping and marketing slowly creeping earlier into the season every year (hence the decor sometimes going up before Halloween in Walmart stores near you).  Therefore, the financial burden and psychological stress of Christmastime isn’t limited to December and becomes more an overarching, long-term dread.

Ultimately, the problem with Christmas is how little it really resembles Christmas anymore.  While the virtues of togetherness, generosity, and peace alone do not lend themselves to a capitalist, penny-pinching kind of holiday, the trend that we’ve seen over years and years of Black Fridays and must-have Christmas merchandise does.  The truth of the matter is that what we think of as Christmas now is growing less like the Christmases of old as it ceaselessly eats up more of the year and more of each family’s holiday budget.

Christmas originates from the story of a tiny baby born quietly in a stable in the middle of the night, a small savior for all the gargantuan problems of mankind.  Nothing in that story suggests that we ought to break our backs to have the biggest, best, and most expensive celebrations, but rather, that what’s missing from our Christmas is its understated, quiet nature, and it just so happens that that costs nothing at all.