For some people, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. However, for millions of Americans, the holidays become a frenzy of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and flash sales. Folks go from their Thanksgiving tables to Walmart in pursuit of the best deals. People trample one another in their race for half-price flat screen TVs. Otherwise rational people are suddenly reduced to scrambling, stampeding mobs in their efforts to snag the latest gadget to put under their Christmas tree (or Chanukah bush). You need a reservation to get a parking space within a mile of the mall. It’s madness, I tell you.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love shopping for holiday presents. There’s something about knowing when you’ve gotten someone a gift you know they’ll love; the way their face lights up when they pull off the shiny wrapping paper (or, if you’re like me, the gift bag you’ve been recycling for 10 years). I love seeing the stores all bedecked with holly and twinkling lights.
What I don’t love are the crowds. Under ordinary circumstances, I am a person who finds respite and relaxation in shopping; you might say it has a sedative-like effect on me. However, in the weeks prior to Christmas, the mall – heck, even the supermarket – become places fraught with danger.
I always return from holiday shopping a little worse for wear. If I’d known that holiday shopping was supposed to be survival of the fittest, I would have just stayed home. One time, a child threatened to bite me if I didn’t surrender the last copy of Toy Story 3. I told him he was bluffing. He sunk his teeth into my arm. With crowds getting as rowdy as they do, it kind of begs the question of whether or not it’s safe for children (or really, anyone under 5’ 7) to venture out during the month of December.
Another thing that really frosts my gingerbread cookies is the polarity that is encouraged during the season. In a way, the holidays tend to emphasize the extreme aspects of humanity: charity and greed. We’re told to love our neighbors, to volunteer our time, to give our pocket change to the Salvation Army guys parked outside of every mall entrance. Then, we’re bombarded by commercials that urge us to spend, spend and then spend some more. Parents stress for months before the holidays, trying to buy every item on their children’s mile-long wish lists. And then, for months afterward, they stress about the debt they’ve accumulated. Not to mention the ulcers they’ve developed due to the stress over the debt. It’s really a vicious cycle.
Personally, I think that the last thing everyone needs for the holidays is more “stuff.” Rather, I think we should do away with all of the pressure. I think the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and our loved ones is a freaking break (and, maybe a pleasure cruise). And, for good measure, a stiff drink. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, or nothing at all, let us strive to make this holiday season one filled with good cheer, loved ones and little stress.
By Jen Weiss