Mutterings of “how am I going to get presents for everyone” to “hurry up and buy something already” to “we will worry about paying for it later, just charge it” started to pierce the joyful ambiance. And suddenly I found myself wondering if I was the only person finding the peace of this holiday time.
Whatever happened to all being merry and bright?
Growing up I was fascinated by holidays. It didn’t matter whether my family celebrated something or not. In my mind, any holiday was an excuse for dressing up, being with friends, singing fun songs, eating special foods, or simply feeling differently than a normal day.
Christmas, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, All Hallow’s Eve, Mardi Gras, Holi, they all sounded fabulously exotic. Magically storefronts, living room windows, lawns, and street lights, were all transformed before my wondering eyes into tableaus of fun.
Christmas - with it’s seemingly universal appeal - held a special attraction. I remember one year even writing a letter to Santa - just in case he was real. (My parents weren’t too happy when they found it considering I had asked him to come get me. My logic was that the stork dropped me off at the wrong household and I would fit in much better with his elves.)
When I left home at the age of 18, I relished in observing holidays with friends and their families. The more I learned about different traditions, the more convinced I became that we were really part of one big collective global family. Because although the specifics differed, they all had certain archetypes in common - renewal, seasons changing, growth, connection, faith in something out there, and community. Take away the trappings and it seemed like everyone just wanted to love and feel loved.
But that year, on the streets of Santa Monica, my eyes opened to the seedy underbelly and elements of darkness that also came along with the holidays. And I began to question why others didn’t appear to feel the beauty that I felt at these times of year.
It’s far too easy to blame capitalism and commercialism for the decline of the holiday spirit. Ads bombard you to spend, spend, SPEND to prove your love to one another. Friends of mine have confessed to feeling pressured to buy beyond their means, or risk being judged as stingy.
However considering we ARE the people creating the ads, I hardly think we can point the finger at a nameless faceless entity for the dissatisfaction we feel this time of year. Remember the monster in Frankenstein (spoiler alert) wasn’t the creation but rather the creator himself.
So how did Joyeux Noël take a turn to become the poster child for evil?
Now before we go on this journey any further, let me pause to remind you that I am neither a Scrooge nor a Grinch in this narrative. And the shocking statement that caused me to become AWARE of the discontent around me, didn’t change my love for celebrations. But it did make me ponder if we have lost sight of WHY celebrations are important for the health of the community.
Extreme capitalists would like us to believe that our fragile economic system will collapse if we don’t continue to acquire goods at an exponential rate. But if that were the case, then our sole purpose in life would be to produce and consume as though we were on some kind of circular conveyor binging our way to a bloated death.
I highly doubt though that anyone reading this post believes that the meaning of life is to shop, or to work to earn money to shop. Plus if our entire economic scheme is that fragile, I would argue that we need a new system and to let this one fail.
And to my local shopkeepers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, please understand that I am NOT dissing the power of a well-thought out purchased gift. I shop local all year, encourage my friends to do so, and support the right to earn a living with goods and services. It would be hypocritical for me to say otherwise considering as a content creator, adult entertainer, and muse, I rely on the financial backing provided by my subscribers to pay my bills.
No it’s not consumerism that is at fault. It’s us as a society of individuals who are stabbing ourselves bloody during the holidays - bleeding money and energy and time - to prove to people in our lives that we love them.
Actually, it’s more than that. We want to declare through the power of purchasing that we love them most, more than they love us. We do so by showering them in grandiose gifts that no one wants, most hide in cupboards and basements, and I highly doubt anyone remembers by the time the holidays roll around again.
Why do we do it?
Now I’m no psychology expert, but my guess is that it has something to do with needing external validation. Which is simply fancy talk for us wanting others to like us so we can like ourselves.
Thus we have latched on to the holidays - which are in and of themselves a more opulent time of year with decorations and parties and traditions - as an excuse to play the popularity game. Paradoxically we often seek the validation from people who like us least, and we don’t like either.
Sadly we also forget that money’s value is not really based on gold like economists tell us. But rather by the time and energy we have to exchange of our valuable life span to earn it. Ironically we devalue ourselves when later we turn around and spend the money on those who fill our lives with toxicity - whether they be connected to us by DNA, social groups, or work life.
Even worse, somehow we have forgotten the most basic premise. Money doesn’t buy happiness.
We could dive further into the matter and analyze where this deep seated need for someone else to permit us to feel worthy comes from. But I’m not a therapist, and I don’t see much value in delving into the childhood traumas here. I’d much rather focus on WHAT we do to get back into the holiday spirit.
Tis the season. But of what exactly?
We talk about it being the season of giving, yet I’m seeing less and less generosity in the both the giver AND the receiver. We’ve stopped SEEING the person we are buying for and perverted them into another checkmark on our To Do list.
Likewise as the receiver, we no longer seem to appreciate the time, energy, and expense that went into the gift. Instead we’ve created a transactional receipt in which we now feel obligated to show we value the giver by gifting something of equal or greater monetary worth.
Admit it, how many times have you received a gift and been disappointed by how “little” was spent on you? Or conversely, when did you receive and now feel worried that yours wasn’t good enough? Do you ever feel like you just have to “buy something” even when you don’t know what they might like, want, or need? And let’s not forget that many feel obligated to spend money they don’t have to begin with. A festivity is not so festive, when viewed as negative entity encouraging us to rack up debt.
Now while I am writing this piece, I’m sitting in a local coffee shop enjoying a wonderful almond milk cappuccino.The shop is decorated for the season. Everything feels cozy. As I’m typing I pause to say hello or give a hug to multiple people who come into the shop that I’ve met over the past five months in this town. And although it means it will take me longer to write with all the interruptions, I relish these beautiful moments greeting and checking in with these lovely humans.
That’s when it hits me.
The idea of giving - whether it’s Christmas or Hanukkah or Valentine’s Day or any other holiday - has absolutely NOTHING to do with the material representation of love in the form of physical gifts. Sure presents are nice, but really we’ve lost sight of something even more important to this exchange altogether.
Somehow we’ve forgotten that the person in front of us is PRICELESS, as are we, and no amount of dollars could ever equal the value of their presence - or ours - in each other’s life.
So if we want the season to be really merry and bright, maybe the answer is simply recognizing that the true gift is being present with the people we love, and sharing moments together without putting a price tag on the experience.
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Tink, world traveler, positivity muse, and adult entertainer, has also freelance written for a number of companies as their ghostwriter. Now talking directly to YOU on this platform, she is also writing two books at her community's request.