“ Why is it that from mid-October till Christmas day every TV commercial and YouTube ad is for a Holiday sale or a new red and green (with white sparkles!) product? Aren’t Christmas and all those other holidays supposed to be about community and love and stuff? When did they become so intensely present centered? One thing for sure is that it’s not an accident. It’s Capitalism. “ -Orion Songster, 9th grade
Well, and consumerism. Consumerism is a key part of capitalism. It’s the idea of having a constant appetite for stuff and things and that possessing things is the key to happiness. You probably don’t need that LED hippo night light, but that ad made you really really want one. This may be a good thing, as you will have a large amount of choices and can get pretty much anything you want. But, in most cases, it’s a bad thing. People waste money on absolutely useless things. The desire for products is endless. If someone can’t get it, this becomes stress and anxiety.
Consumerism is also one of the largest strategies of capitalistic growth. It creates competition between companies, supply-demand needs, the need for profit (on both a consumer and company level), and a survival of the fittest narrative. When living in a capitalistic society, the only people who benefit are the extremely rich, and lower-classes are placed in poverty, with workers being subjected to mass exploitation while costs of basic needs increase exponentially. The more we buy into consumerism, the more we buy into capitalism.
But Christmas didn’t start as another scheme for Capitalism. It began as a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And as Christiantiy spread, along with colonialism, it began to be celebrated by people of all kinds in all places. Around the same time, the Norse celebrated Yule, for the return of longer days and a sunny sky. They would bring in evergreen trees and burn their logs in a fire, which stemmed into the tradition of putting up Christmas trees. Over time, these and many other Mid-winter festivities combined traditions, with the main idea circling around Jesus’s birthday. In the fourth century, Pope Julius l marked December 25th as the official day to celebrate Jesus’s birth.
This tradition spread, eventually making its way to the United States. The Dutch would celebrate Sinterklaas, who was also called Saint Nicholas. Traditionally honored on December 5th and 6th, people would buy gifts and convince children that the gifts had been brought to them by Sinterklaas himself. Eventually, some time after many Dutch people immigrated to the United States, the gift giving and celebration of Saint Nicholas was moved to Christmas. The name was, through many years, changed to our well known Santa Claus.
By the time the Industrial Revolution came around, businesses had begun to move their goals towards capitalism, and saw an opportunity for profit in the figure of Santa Claus. When cartoonist Thomas Nast created the modern image of the jolly character, Macy’s and other toy stores began to advertise rapidly.
Quickly, people caught on, and the industry became bigger and bigger. Of course, the tale of Santa Claus was a short lived fairy tale, children never believed in him for long. Toy stores were the main things that were profiting off of this holiday and other places wanted some of the profits as well. As advertising for Christmas gifts grew, they began to be targeted for adults as well as children. Soon Christmas was one of the most profitable times of the year for countless companies and businesses.
And now we come to the current situation. Consumerism and capitalism have completely taken over what used to be a holiday about community and celebration of life. Now it is simply a celebration of stuff and 80% off sales.
Of course, this doesn't mean you can’t celebrate Christmas without a guilty conscience. The main places that take advantage of this time are large corporations like Amazon and Walmart. You can still buy gifts for people, in fact it’s amazing if you do. But you should buy things off of small businesses, or even make things yourself if you can. You can still celebrate the joy and coming together of loved ones–or not, if your family sucks. Just remember that anything you don’t spend on Capitalism is a step in the right(well technically left) direction.
Spend safe and happy holidays.