Giving or greed

Giving+or+greed

Christmas spirit fills the air during the holiday season, spreading light and joyfulness. Yet, do people still see Christmas this way? Most people tend to forget the true meaning of Christmas; gathering with friends and family for a time of giving and rest. Nowadays, people don’t look forward to giving, they look forward to getting. 

The first Christmas gifts usually consisted of homemade items given to friends and family members, such as a corn husk doll given to little girls. Gifts were typically less expensive, practical, had a personal connection and were overall more cherished because of the novelty of the exchange. Nowadays, homemade gifts may be blown off, while expensive gifts are more expected and admired. 

“A lot of the time the gifts our generation gave to each other were homemade,” substitute teacher Denis Hart said. “Back in the 60s and 70s we would make a lot of gifts in school in shop class because it was easier and less expensive.”

The economic boom after World War II made gift giving abundant in comparison to previous years. During the early 1900s, the average person only received a couple of gifts, but now statistics show that most people get between seven and 12 gifts on Christmas.

This increase in gift giving is not a bad thing. South University in Georgia states that giving gifts has immense psychological benefits. Giving presents can show appreciation, interest and strengthen bonds with the people you care for. This tradition has an overwhelmingly positive outcome, but overconsumption and the pressure to provide expensive gifts are where the holidays can have a negative aspect. 

“I think we as a society are moving farther apart from each other during the holidays and it seems more about the gifts and not as much about spending time with family,” sophomore Travis Aiken said. 

 

According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers spend an average of $997.73 on gifts each year for Christmas. 41% of Americans are willing to take on debt in order to pay for Christmas, and while expensive gifts are definitely appreciated, the average adult says that they receive unwanted gifts worth roughly $60. That means approximately $8.3B will be spent on unwanted gifts in 2022.

Many people spend hundreds of dollars of money they don’t have just to provide presents that go unappreciated during Christmas, but what if there was a better solution?

“I think it’s the thought that counts more than what you can buy with money,” senior Bailey Bartrum said. “If you make me something that you put hard work into, then I’m going to cherish it more than if you had just bought me something.”

Major corporations have taken advantage of this gift giving tradition by extreme marketing and ads that have a you-must-have promotion on expensive products. It’s no secret that companies make significant profits during the holiday season, and this practice of buying hundreds of dollars worth of gifts has benefited retailers tremendously. 

Retail sales are projected to increase 6 to 8% this year to the amount of $960 billion spent during the holiday season. For the past 10 years this price has only gone up with an increase of 4.9% per year. 

As more people are buying expensive gifts for Christmas, companies such as Amazon, Best Buy and eBay are gaining billions of dollars during the holiday season. So much money is being spent during the holiday season that actual calendar holidays have been added just for the purpose of purchasing gifts, such as Black Friday.

Black Friday has a history of danger; many accidents and even deaths have occurred as people fiercely rushed into stores, hoping to start their Christmas shopping early and save money with the sales put on in stores. 

“My first Black Friday was very hectic,” Rita Feeny, Walmart employee for nine years, said. “Right at six as people would cut open the tape people would rush in and climb over each other and fight over the TVs.” 

New holidays dedicated to Christmas shopping have since been added, like Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday, to keep retail workers and citizens safe while big corporations still make a profit. This seems to be a solution, but the issue at large remains the desperation people face just to get good prices on expensive gifts that they feel they need to give.

Christmas has always been a family oriented holiday, but this emphasis on gift giving and spending massive amounts of money on presents has created a stressful atmosphere around the holiday season. The pressure people face to make sure they can provide good gifts has taken away from the original meaning of giving meaningful gifts with an actual purpose.

“What my mother always used to say was, ‘Just come home and be with me. I just like to have the time with you,’” Hart said. “Sometimes going home and seeing your parents or grandparents can be the best gift.”