In the mid-1800s, stores first began using the imagery of Christmas to boost sales:
- In the early 1800s, department store home magazines started publishing pictures of Christmas family gatherings to boost sales of products.
- Retail stores began using images of Santa Claus in their store windows in the 1840s.
- Macy’s became the first store, in 1862, to have Santa inside their store that children could visit in order to increase foot traffic.
- Coca-Cola began featuring Santa in their advertising in the 1920s.
- The term, Black Friday, caught on nationally in the 1980s to signify the day after Thanksgiving, pre-Christmas shopping frenzy.
- Nowadays, “Christmas creep” is the term used to describe retailers who extend the Christmas shopping season by starting earlier and earlier. Most credit Lowe’s Home Improvement who made it a corporate policy in 2000 to begin displaying Christmas trees in their stores nationwide on October 1 every year.
- And Cyber-Monday was first coined in 2005 as online retailers sought to take advantage of workers shopping habits as they returned to their high-speed Internet connections at the office following the long holiday weekend.
In every case, we have been manipulated by marketers, advertisers, and retailers to shop more and more and more.
The artificial manipulation to change our wants and spending stems from our internal desire to create the perfect holiday experience with magical memories for our family and kids. Shopping promised to meet that need, but only detracts from it.
Retail promises the perfect Christmas, but ruins it instead.
Christmas has always meant family, and loved ones, and home… but ever since the mid-1800s that desire has been hijacked by consumeristic retailers to make money for themselves. Nowadays, Christmas is synonymous with shopping.
But this year, don’t let shopping ruin your holiday season.
I mean, if endless shopping and consumerism were actually improving our holiday season, maybe it would make sense to spend as much as you can. But in reality, it is not adding joy to our families, it is actually distracting from it.
Consider, for just a moment, how “shopping” may actually be detracting from your holiday joy:
1. Shopping is adding financial stress on to our lives.
In the United States, it has been calculated that a quarter of all personal spending takes place during the Christmas/holiday shopping season. In fact, over 1/4 of us will enter the holiday season still paying off debt from last year’s gift shopping. And while you may not be one of the 50% of shoppers who will overspend your holiday budget this year, that person sitting next to you at the holiday table, trying to keep up with your family tradition, is.
2. Shopping adds unnecessary mental stress to the holiday season.
We desire for the holiday season to be one of the most enjoyable seasons of the year. But in reality, “people in the United States are more likely to feel their stress increases rather than decreases during the holidays. The holidays can be a hectic time for many, and a lack of money, a lack of time, and the hype and commercialism of the season causes increased stress for people in this country.”
Shopping is resulting in the exact opposite emotions we desire during this holiday season.
3. Shopping takes time—lots of it during the holidays.
The average consumer expects to spend 25 hours over the next month shopping for gifts, waiting in lines, wrapping those gifts, and eventually returning them after the holidays.
Many will note, correctly so, that the holiday season always feels particularly rushed and hectic. The extra shopping connected to the season is the reason why.
4. Shopping results in additional unmet expectations.
Retailers work hard to promise a perfect Christmas to each of us. If we buy the right gifts, the right decorations, the right tree, the right brand of ham or soda, our holiday season will be unmistakably magical.
But that is very rarely the case. Our shopping produces the opposite effect.
53.1% of people report to receiving unwanted gifts during Christmas. $16 billion is wasted on unwanted gifts every year. And 18% of gifts are never used by the person who receives them. 4% are immediately thrown into the trash.
5. Overshopping sets a dangerous precedent.
I hear from many parents, “How can we change the way we give gifts this year to our children? We give too many gifts each year and want to cut back, but we don’t want them to be disappointed. We don’t see a way out.”
Lifestyle creep is not just for adults… the phenomena exists for children as well. What is set as normal in your family is always difficult to walk back. What may seem like overshopping this year will become the expectation for next year. Even more, it will set the precedent for them when they become parents.
6. Shopping puts focus on the wrong things.
When presents and decorations become our focus and desire, we miss all the blessings right in front of us. Consumerism has a nasty tendency to shift our focus off the good things we possess, and put our desire towards all the things we don’t have.
Whether your holiday season is about family, faith, or both… shopping always distracts from it.
Consumerism makes promises it can never deliver.
And your holidays will be better without it.
We will celebrate Christmas in our home this year. We will exchange gifts (our kids receive one thing they want, one thing they need, and one experience to share with the family—and my wife and I exchange one quality gift between us).
We will spend time with loved ones.
We will put up a tree and one box of meaningful decorations to celebrate the season. We will celebrate our faith and would normally attend some special holiday gatherings (most of which have been cancelled this year unfortunately).
We’ll drive around and look at Christmas lights in our neighborhood. We’ll bake Christmas cookies and watch Christmas movies.
Our season will be memorable because we won’t let shopping ruin it.
Neither should you.
I feel fortunate that in my family holiday gifts were only given to children and only by their parents, so I missed the potlatch culture everyone else is burdened with.