Tomorrow is Black Friday. A lot of Americans, and I’m sad to say Canadians too, are probably already lined up in front of some Walmart or Best Buy looking to score a bunch of Christmas presents on the cheap.
But just think about that for a minute. Think about what that really means. And how it really relates to Christmas.
The Magnificent Obsession
Living in a capitalist society like we do, the emphasis on material expressions of love and appreciation at Christmas time have become so deeply ingrained in our social fabric that one could actually argue it is something of a mass obsession.
Every store you go into is playing Christmas music non-stop. There are two channels on my TV that are showing virtually nothing but Christmas movies. There is a Christmas story on every newscast and of course there is all the advertising. The diamond companies, the car companies, the candy companies, the toy makers, the toy sellers, the game companies and of course Coca Cola.
What we don’t seem to realize is that we have, over the course of our entire lives, become totally addicted to the idea that we have to buy gifts, big ones and lots of them, for people at this time of year.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no real problem with gift giving per se. My problem is the incredible amount of pressure that is put on people to live up to the mass expectation that has been built up about gift giving.
Tomorrow, there will be millions of people shopping like crazy. They will be tense and stressed and angry. Somebody will get beat up. Somebody will get knifed. Somebody might even get shot. A bunch of people will get arrested and a bunch more will be either injured in the fray or disappointed that they didn’t get up early enough to grab the juiciest bargains.
This is all pretty damn sad if you ask me. And I’m not putting myself above this. I’m sitting here myself with a bit of concern that I only have four weeks left to get whatever it is we’re going to get for our kids and grandkids and each other, the people my wife works with and the list goes on.
With all that frenzy is it any wonder that the holidays approach like a runaway train and are over before you know it? The month of December feels like it’s only about a week and a half long. Then bang, it’s all done.
The Real Art Of Gift Giving
My wife likes to watch a lot of period dramas and I like some of them myself. They had it right back then. One material gift for the people you care about the most and then the other, a more precious gift…the gift of time. The gift of simply being with each other. The gift of sharing a meal and having a drink and simply enjoying each other’s company.
But when I look around, I see very little in the way of tranquil joy. Instead, what I see is a lot of people in a hurry. A mad rush that will last from now till Christmas Eve.
Taking the time to celebrate the season without the crushing pressure of the outside world and all its buying frenzy is what the Christmas season used to be about.
Somewhere in the exponential growth of the ‘shop till you drop’ economy, most of what we now call the tranquility of Christmas is really exhaustion as we recuperate from the stresses that have become so much a part of the season.
I know it sounds reactionary, but I really do miss the old days when Christmas was all about family and friends and to a much lesser extent about Christmas shopping and cultural curses like Black Friday.
And if stop to think about it for a moment, I imagine you might miss it too. Amen.
Jim Murray, (that would be me), is the creative director of Onwords & Upwords, a Toronto based communications resource that creates and implements strategically focused branding, advertising & promotion in all media for companies who appreciate solid creative thinking and value reasonable rates.
I am a strategist, writer, art director and producer. I work directly for companies in the SME sector and or the business & marketing consultants who work with them.
Lately, I have been have great conversations with several entrepreneurs about the direction their businesses are taking. I like to think that’s helpful to them and that when they get themselves organized, they’ll be able to hire me to help them.
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