(Happy) Holidays: Christmas and Consumption

The holidays season is in full swing! And for the most part, it has been a nice change of pace for my family and I. Over the past week or so, we (my wife, two young children, and I) have had the opportunity to spend extra time together and have made many meaningful family memories.

There is something very healthy about holidays like Christmas. Whether you celebrate the Christian meaning of the season or not, the extended time away from work and school obligations provides each of us with a much needed ‘time-out’ from our busy, everyday routines. Time to reflect, time to enjoy our loved ones, time to share our hopes and dreams for a coming year, time to remember what really matters most in our lives.

Alice Miller Drama of the Gifted Child

Artwork credit: Alice Miller

In our industrial-growth society, however, Christmas-time is easily hijacked by a consumerist agenda. I noticed this acutely this holiday season. Visiting relatives who have cable television (yep, my family doesn’t…we are hippies like that), I actually found myself feeling ill after being bombarded by advertisements enticing me to buy things I don’t really want–and surely do not need. And yet, I also felt compelled to consume: after all, that MacBook Pro would surely change my life, wouldn’t it? Advertisements are insidious like that. No matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to escape their power.

Jungian analyst James Hollis surely speaks truth when he states,

The implicit premise of our culture, that through materialism, narcissism or hedonism we would be happy, is clearly bankrupt. Those who have embraced such values are not happy or complete.

I am not saying (and Hollis is not suggesting) that giving material gifts during the Christmas season is morally wrong or to be entirely avoided (although temperance is a virtue our western culture surely lacks). The real joy of the season, however, is found in re-connecting with those you love (whether these individuals are family members or other loved ones), remembering what is truly important to you, and looking forward to a New Year with hopeful anticipation.

I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and a truly meaningful New Year!