I overhear a conversation at a crowded Christmas market in Berlin:
– Mom, I have another wish for Christmas.
– What is it? (holding breath)
– …insert a random item…
– How much does it cost?
– I will think about it.
Even more unsettling messages stare at me from the billboards and shop windows:
- “It’s the perfect gift for her” – he gives her an Apple Watch in front of the Christmas tree. She’s beaming with happiness.
- “Are you tired of packing your own Christmas gifts? We order, package and send your Xmas presents for you!” – a new service.
- “Merry Christmas! Because I love you!” – the label next to a golden bracelet at a jewelry shop.
What is really going on? Wasn’t Christmas about spending quality time together and cherishing the moment?
When did this holiday turn into bargaining? Why do we need to jump through hoops to get the perfect present that would make someone really, really happy? And why is our present responsible for this person’s happiness?!
In a world of instant gratification and Amazon, do we really need Christmas?
All these questions only come to show that we need to reexamine our spending habits. We need to get mighty real about it. The industry has done a great job sending the message across: “Hey, this is how you show your love – you give material objects. The bigger and more expensive they are, the bigger your love is.”
But the truth is that have the choice. We can either respond to the consumerism appeal or we can do Christmas our own way. Look at the people around you. Look at yourself. Do you want to spend a small fortune on Christmas shopping? Do you really want to have another nerve-racking visit to the mall in the search for the perfect gift?
Next time a someone asks you what would you like to have for Christmas, just tell them you have everything. These gifts usually end up lying around gathering dust anyways. They create extra guilt through the year – “But I can’t throw this hideous sweater away. My mother gave it to me for Christmas”.
– Hey Sonia, what are you doing for Christmas? Have you done any Christmas shopping?
– I don’t do Christmas.
– I am not religious and there are no children in my close social circle. So why bother?
Sonia is in her 50-ties and she is financially well off. She can comfortably retire if she wishes to do so. Exactly this mindset is the reason for her wealth.
I don’t have the right answers but here’s an alternative: Give your time to the people you love. Visit your family, engage in an activity together. Be patient and understanding. Cook dinner, bake cookies for your friends, set up Christmas decoration together.
If you really, really want to give something, here are some options:
- Give your time or money to a charity for a cause you care about – they surely need it.
- Give books, courses – something educational, a knowledge or skill that will stay with them forever.
- Give experiences – something fun that you both will have great memories of ice skating, theater/concert tickets, painting night, the possibilities are endless.
- Open an investment account on behalf of your child and encourage the relatives to contribute small amounts to it. Show your child how the amount grows with time.
- Create a photo album with pictures of you and your family from all the fun things you have been doing through the year.
- Give a voucher for a beauty treatment, spa, massage, any kind of self-care – especially for those dedicated moms who never find the money or time for themselves.
- Start someone on their meditation journey – here is a little meditation app that I love.