Let’s Take Back Thanksgiving – Opt Out of Consumerism

Christmas has morphed into a secular holiday in the United States with consumerism as its focal point. Thanksgiving is becoming a shopping day.

In 2012, according to the National Retail Federation, U.S. shoppers broke new ground when 35 million people showed up at retail stores and shopped online on Thanksgiving. A record breaking 247 million shoppers spent $59.1 billion on gifts and stuff for themselves over Black Friday weekend.

Author’s Soap Box (Opinion) – Christmas Consumerism is Out of Control

Author's Soap BoxLike most people, including me, you probably enjoy giving and receiving gifts. But Christmas season consumerism has gotten way out of hand. Christmas shopping isn’t fun anymore. Our manic over consumption is using up huge amounts of resources, energy, and water, polluting our environment, and creating mountains of waste.

Come on, admit it, unless you are one of those people who starts next year’s Christmas shopping during this year’s after-Christmas sales or an adrenaline junky who enjoys the challenge of shopping on Christmas Eve, you’re probably stressed out about Christmas shopping and worried you’ll overspend your gift budget again. You may find yourself resenting the sense of obligation and quid pro quo that surrounds Christmas gift giving and then feeling guilty or miserly.

Advertising bombards us everywhere and advises us what to buy to be the coolest aunt, perfect husband, ideal parent, best friend, or smartest shopper. We are losers unless we buy our kids, nieces and nephews, or grandkids the hottest toy. Only slackers sit around enjoying turkey, watching football, or playing board games on Thanksgiving. Standing in line at 2:00 a.m. to be the first person in the door on Black Friday or to snag the latest gadget is a badge of honor (extra credit if it’s snowing).

So what is a good American who loves their family and friends to do?

Christmas Shopping Button Malfunction

Computer Keyboard with Red Buy Now ButtonI used to enjoy giving and receiving Christmas gifts. But this year my internal Christmas shopping button has malfunctioned—somehow it’s been switched off, broken, or repurposed. What caused this to happen?

Perhaps it was spotting Christmas stuff in stores before Halloween. A contributing factor was probably the early and constant bombardment of Christmas advertising. Maybe seeing TV ads for Pre-Black Friday sales sent me over the edge. Regardless, the fun and pleasure of Christmas shopping and gift giving is gone.

My spouse and I talked it over and decided to opt out of giving and receiving Christmas gifts this year. We’d make an exception if we had small children in the family, but we don’t. We’ll continue donating toys and books to Toys for Tots.

We announced our intentions to our family and a few friends via email. No reaction from them yet, but it’s only been a couple of days. Perhaps the message was met with a shrug and a sigh of relief.

Let’s Take Back Thanksgiving

When President George Washington issued the first Thanksgiving Presidential Proclamation in 1789, it was intended as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. At that time, the Revolutionary War was still fresh in people’s minds, the U.S. Constitution had just been instituted, and George Washington was 6 months into his term as the first President of the United States.

Let’s take back Thanksgiving. Let’s reflect on what we are thankful for and what is important to us. Let’s relax, slow down, and enjoy the day and the weekend. I propose we give ourselves permission to:

  • Thanksgiving Cornucopia with Fruit, Pumpkin, and SunflowersJust say no to Pre-Black Friday sales.
  • Enjoy Thanksgiving and give Gray Thursday a miss.
  • Sleep in on Black Friday.
  • Skip Small Business Saturday.
  • Surf past ads and shopping sites on Cyber Monday.
  • Go green on Green Monday by not shopping.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Take Back Thanksgiving – Opt Out of Consumerism”

  1. Here, here! I couldn’t have said it better myself. Christmas is now about the presents and not about “the reason for the season”. Seeing Christmas decorations up before Halloween this year (a first that I remember) was very distasteful. Christmas is supposed to follow Thanksgiving. I’m ok with decorations going up the weekend of Thanksgiving and Christmas carols for the entire month of December, but alas, I too am tired of the constant ads for my time and money to get the best deals and be the coolest relative.

    My husband and I are childless and always “adopt a family member of a struggling family” through our place of employment. That’s our way of contributing to “all children getting presents on Christmas”. But, Linda is correct that the joy of Christmas shopping is dead. Hopefully it will be resurrected someday when it can go back to being something you do while you are out or on vacation and see something that reminds you of a friend or family member that you would like them to have.

    Thanksgiving has truly been lost as a wonderful family get together where food, family, catching up and reminiscing were the order of the day. I too, vote to bring it back to this important (non-present shopping) day for all to reconnect in person.

    Wishing you all a family filled gathering to count and acknowledge your blessings, no shopping, Thanksgiving!

  2. Spending so much effort and words on why not to buy into consumerism for the holidays, to me, just seems wrong. Why not put the emphasis and words into thinking about other ways we can reach out and share with those we care about. How about more information on Toys for Tots?

    For many years my church has devoted the first Sunday in Advent, next Sunday this year, to gift ideas for Alternate Holiday gifts. The Heifer Project is one of these. You can choose a gift for every age (e.g. plant a tree, school supplies for underdeveloped countries, flock of baby chicks honey bees, etc.). You complete your selection on a Heifer form, write a check, receive a gift card describing your gift and you are done. It is a win/win.

    Instead of sending Christmas cards to one another, the women in my P.E.O. chapter donate whatever they wish to one of our educational philanthropies each December; another win/win.

    We have a favorite cookie in our family, ginger snaps, and I look forward to baking a batch for each of our children and their families to enjoy. Sometimes I enclose a box of See’s Candy which I buy where the profits help a Kiwanis’ philantrophy, a win/win.

    A phone call during the holidays to touch base with those we care about is so easy and certainly a win/win.

    Don’t let the consumerism spoil the idea of giving and sharing with those we care about.

    1. Good point about focusing on the positive aspects of giving. Thanks for sharing some good ideas. Your comment reminded me I wrote about alternative gift giving and green wrapping last year so I added the links to this post. Happy Holidays.

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