Taking back the holidays

A shop in Basingstoke, England is advertising its discounts for the Black Friday shopping event on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. Imported from the U.S., Black Friday sales have become an increasingly important period for British retailers ahead of Christmas. (Andrew Matthews/AP)

Today is the long-awaited first of December. It is the first day of the Advent chocolate calandar and we have finally recovered from our turkey coma. We are officially amidst the holiday season. Yet the holiday spirit rush of December first feels remarkably anticlimactic this year, and it is not due to the lack of snow on the ground.  Instead, this feeling relates to the Christmas displays that have decorated stores for over a month and the harsh behavior of mobs in stores that directly follows the grateful themes of Thanksgiving dinner. The holiday season, characterized by time with family and the spirit of giving, has been corrupted by the overwhelming consumerism and materialism surrounding the season.

Stores are always the institutions that introduce the holidays. This is part of a merchandising phenomenon aptly titled the “Christmas creep,” in which stores exploit the commercialization of Christmas through early decorations and Christmas products. This is an endless cycle of creating and benefiting from the commercialization of a holiday, but few people are happy with its outcome. RichRelevance, a data personalization firm, conducted a study, which shows that 71 percent of Americans are irritated with the holiday season beginning in October. This annoyance with the commercialization of the holiday detracts from the holiday spirit. When the time actually comes to celebrate the holiday season, this annoyance has already left a bitter taste in the mouths of those who disagree with its early appearance in stores.

For many people, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the season with a day that exhibits many of the values that characterize the holidays. Thanksgiving represents a day spent in the presence of loved ones being grateful for the things we have. Yet, the Christmas creep means leaving Thanksgiving dinner to wait in lines for stores that open at 8:00 p.m. or earlier in order to shop all night and take advantage of great sales before those who waited for the sun to rise on Black Friday. Black Friday is characterized by trampling mobs and consumers’ greed. The spirit of giving thanks is long forgotten as shoppers rush for the last TV on sale claiming the guise of the holiday spirit of giving. Yet the holiday season does not justify the pure consumerism and materialism of Black Friday, nor could anyone actually use holiday cheer as the reason why a person was trampled to death on Black Friday in 2008, or why six shootings happened at Black Friday sales across the nation this year. Consumerism and materialism, though often considered part of the holiday season, are completely separate from the intended purpose of the holidays, and it is these ideas along with greed, and mob mentality that cause many Black Friday atrocities that darken the wonderful meaning behind the holiday season.

Spending time with loved ones is the heart of the holiday season. There are many holidays during the season, including Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Boxing Day, and the common theme throughout them is their celebration with family and friends.  Thus, the spirit of love and kindness should characterize the season. While several of these holidays do involve the practice of giving gifts, the practice of purchased goods and extravagance stems from the consumer-driven ideas that now corrupt the season. Presents are supposed to show one’s appreciation for a loved one. Yet so often, the practice of gift giving uses price or size as a measure of appreciation.

On this day, the start of a holiday-filled month, it is important to remind ourselves to enjoy the holiday season for what it truly represents: time spent with loved ones, showing appreciation for one another and the spirit of celebrating culture, religion and new beginnings through various holidays. Though consumerism and materialism will never stop corrupting the holiday season, we can control the season in our own lives both through mindfulness of the holiday and our power as consumers not to participate in the Christmas creep. Perhaps through this we can take back the joy of the holiday spirit.

Update 9:37 p.m. December 1, 2016

An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Advent started on Dec. 1 this year, instead of Nov. 27. This has been updated within the story.


Alyssa Luis is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at alyssa.luis@uconn.edu.