Materialism Madness

Holiday season at Shin Kong Mitsukoshi departm...

Holiday season at Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store, Taipei (Photo credit: Todd Mecklem)

It’s December, as you are all aware; thus begins the frenzied shopping and crowded malls and shops. Filled with people who are more stressed than they are merry making the holiday season feel its been high-jacked by commercialism. This is what one faces at this time of year if you head out to the stores. Oh and heaven forbid you not be a participant in the madness! If you mention you’re not participating in buying gifts, or you’re cutting back, people assume there’s something wrong with you. Suddenly it’s not so cool to be non-materialistic. I’ve stopped mentioning to store clerks I’m only doing this for family and that I find the whole holiday season to be far too concerned with how much you spend on people, somehow an indication of your love/liking for them (not in those words though!).

What if you’re unemployed or on a fixed income? I’m not employed and feel more than a


Gifts (Photo credit: Guudmorning!)

little stressed trying to meet others’ expectations. I’ve had to scale back on who gets a gift at all since I haven’t got a healthy bank account. In some ways I am more aware of the absurdity of our mainstream culture’s shopping habits this time of year, but in other respects I feel I’ll be letting some people down. Yes, I could pretend I have cut back on the scale of my gift giving because of my philosophical beliefs but that would be disingenuous. Like most Westerners in North America, I enjoy giving gifts to people and happily receive them; however, when you’re on a tight budget there’s little joy in it. Each person I buy for becomes a mental burden as I attempt to find something I think they’ll like(in a price range I can afford). Economics really kill the spontaneity of it.

Christmas gifts.

Christmas gifts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, I have a sister who equates gifts with love (I suppose it’s her ‘love language’). So I end up feeling like I need to apologize for a less than extravagant gift to her. She out spends her budget on gifts so doesn’t understand why other people can’t go without on something to manage doing the same. It sort of peeves me. Not all of us want to go without on whatever it might be to have more money to splash out on gifts. I know I’m probably coming off as a Scrooge type character but it’s hard to feel enthusiastic when you can’t buy the item you know the person on your list would love. Instead you/I get good at being creative gift’rs.

If I baked or knew how to knit, sew, etc. I could make my gifts. But I’m about as useful with

English: Knitting Needles and Needlepoint

English: Knitting Needles and Needlepoint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

a recipe or pair of knitting needles as I am with a saw cutting wood. So that option is out. I rather envy the people who can make people mittens or a scarf etc. for their gift. It’s usually inexpensive but shows the person obviously cares, as it takes a lot of time to make most items. I think if I had things my way I’d not do the gifting at all. However, that feels Scrooge like and I don’t want to be miserly and uncaring towards people, especially my family and friends. It just gets stressful at times.

I know I could offer my babysitting services to my sister as a present but I worry about being asked to do a crappy “shift” where I’m left almost missing the last bus home (and I live too far away to walk). Okay, so I suppose if I’m brutally honest it’s because I am selfish and enjoy my time being mine. Offering my child care services would add in an element of background stress as I fretted about when I might be called upon. I really believe being on call for four years for two jobs I didn’t like very much ruined me. After four years of feeling like you never have any time that’s legitimately your’s it becomes too easy to write off ever doing anything similar again. As an introvert I NEED time to MYSELF. Alright that was a long way of explaining why I’m not offering child care to my sister as a gift.

English: Photographer AllyUnion must be credited.

English: Photographer AllyUnion must be credited. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what are your feelings around the holiday season? Do you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, or something else? Or nothing at all? How do you cope with the chaos that often accompanies this season? Have you stopped gifting or decided you’re going to celebrate the way you want to? I’d love to know!

Β©Sonamsangmu, 2012.


77 thoughts on “Materialism Madness

  1. i’m with you i do not look forward to holiday seasons at all. it’s been much easier though over the last three years as we live far far away from any family! you know my family’s not in my life and Hubby’s family lives in the same city as mine. so i have no obligations to anyone for Christmas aside from Hubby, and if it weren’t for him wanting to enjoy the holiday celebrations, i don’t know that i would even remember. Hubby and I exchange gifts and buy a little one for the dog.
    i went into town today and regretted it with the holiday crowds and traffic. (not to mention my debit card decided not to work anymore)

    • Well I am glad I’m not alone in my holiday concerns but am happy you’ve managed to not be too bothered anymore by it. It’s nice to have a small celebration with the people who mean something to you. What do you normally get your dog for Christmas? Toy(s)?

      • yes it really nice, quiet and stress free! Hubby and i have the Christmas tradition of watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation every year.
        The dog usually gets a pigs ear (i know ewww!) this year he’s getting something more gross but it will keep him busy longer. lol

      • National Lampoons Christmas Vacation? is it a movie?

        Oh well it’s not gross to a dog so that’s what counts πŸ˜‰ Wait, what is grosser than a pig’s ear?

      • yes it’s a really funny movie with Chevy Chase.

        ahaha for the dog, he’s getting bull vessicle-it’s where the pee comes through on a bull…lol
        it’s like rawhide but rawhide is really bad for dogs

      • Say what!? Bull vessicle…uh, now I’m sorry I asked! LMAO πŸ˜‰ Sounds yummy! *goes and barfs*

        I will have to look for the movie. I’ve never seen it before-well I haven’t seen a lot of movies so no surprise there LOL.

      • LOL, yes you did but curiosity got the better of me;)

        Thanks. I like seeing A Christmas Carol and How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Yes, the second one is a cartoon! I love seeing it b/c it’s just so cute and carefree. If I watch A Christmas Carol I like for it to be in black and white and the older version. There’s several I think.

      • that’s so cool! i think Hubby likes the Grinch too, i don’t mind it.
        He has more Christmas spirit than me πŸ˜‰ he does also have a way of bringing it out of me.

      • I’m a sucker for kids Christmas movies. Charlie Brown’s Christmas is also a favourite of mine. I like them because they’re sweet and uncomplicated with happy endings πŸ™‚

      • Yup πŸ™‚ That and I’m idealistic and there’s something charming about Charlie Brown’s Christmas and The Grinch cartoons. They remind me of the happier aspects of my childhood which were few and far between. So it’s nostalgia too.

      • Hmm, not sure it’s big as such. My family involved at Christmas is usually my dad, sister, niece and in the past I exchanged a gift with friends. In the past I used to try and buy for my grandparents but only one is living now and my dad just gives something from both of us. So I suppose it could be big to some but I usually leave aunts and uncles out. When I was a child they’d send me things but that fizzled out. So I just deal with my sister, niece, dad and my sister’s partner. I didn’t used to get him anything but started feeling guilty as the years passed so get him something under $10 now! LOL πŸ˜›

      • you are so sweet! it’s not too big, but big enough. my hubby has 7 sibblings, add in some have kids, significant others, and friends…everyone gathers at his parents place. i’m so glad i don’t have that obligations anymore. i care about his family, but it was always really overwhelming for me. they’re loud, heavy drinkers, smokers tokers…i just don’t handle, loud, or crowds well.

      • LOL, a Christmas toke! πŸ˜‰ Is that tradition? lol I can see why you’d want to avoid being in a loud atmosphere of people under various “influences”. I’m terrible in that sort of atmosphere too. It just gives me a big headache! usually a migraine so an upset stomach too.

      • LOL! more than a Christmas tradition, a regular thing. That would be brutal getting a migraine or sick from it. Thankfully i don’t get sick, just the anxiety is over the top. sometimes i would have to try and find a quiet place to just calm down, which is hard with about 20 people everywhere. the bathroom was usually the only place. ha!

      • Oh, I see. Well “different strokes for different folk!” as the saying goes, heh heh πŸ˜‰

        Anxiety is a problem for me somewhat but I am mostly able to handle it. I think maybe I believe I’ve got it all under control until I realize I have a migraine 😦 The bathroom is such a refuge sometimes! lol

      • yes they’re an interesting bunch. so different from what i grew up with. but there is love in that family.
        Anxiety ambushes suck! i think that’s what bathrooms are made for! lol

      • Love makes up for a lot of things πŸ˜€

        Yup, my high school prom was spent in the bathroom when I felt too awkward by myself. I was dateless so felt I stood out. Bathrooms have been a sanctuary for me many times. A friend’s wedding reception over a year ago drove me to seek out the toilets. I wasn’t anxious but felt like I was back at my prom again! Alone, and feeling like the odd one out.

      • i’m sorry you had a rough experience with prom. weddings are really hard too…that’s where you really have to wear the mask of fake happiness.
        my prom, was brutal too…i had a date that got insanely drunk, had hickey all over him from another girl, threw up on me and then i had to drive him to a school parking lot and walk home at 2 am alone. i couldn’t let my parents know or there would have been trouble. so when i needed them most it wasn’t safe for me to ask them for help.

      • Aw, I’m sorry you had such a traumatic prom. That’s crappy when you can’t count on your parents to help you in a situation like that. Sounds worse than my prom but I guess it’s best not to compare!

        Pretending to be happy worked for me until the numbness went and then I couldn’t fake it anymore. Now I have to deal with the embarrassment of being teary eyed at social functions if I am alone-which I usually am 😦

      • no comparing isn’t helpful, your situation for you was as painful as mine was for me. πŸ™‚

        It’s so hard to be alone a social functions. I remember that feeling well as I got married late in life. Do you feel a strong obligation to go to them when you’re finding it hard?

      • No, I generally only go if it’s a close friend or someone I care about. Otherwise, I avoid all such functions! lol There was a “family reunion” this past summer I did not attend for the reasons mentioned. I got a bit of flack from family but it wasn’t too bad. An uncle and another aunt and my grandmother felt I should have gone but I’m not comfortable at those events. Heck, most of the family were people I didn’t know. When you’ve battled mental health issues and had an “alternative” life course it’s harder to fit in. Or I feel it is anyway. Those functions do make me a bit anxious because I haven’t been able to ignore others’ opinions of me entirely yet.

      • Yes judgement is all over at family stuff. it’s so hard. Hubby and I have been chatting about when my parents go, if i’m even going to be there. There isn’t a lot of family left, but those that are will all be judging me. my abusive Uncle (if he doesn’t go first) would be there..we figure I have been taken out of the will. Sister will just take everything. so what’s the point?

      • Aw, yeah weddings and funerals stink! LOL Okay, weddings are alright πŸ˜‰

        The only good thing about going to your parents’ funeral when they die is to have closure. It isn’t closure for everyone so don’t go if you think it would make things worse for you. When I went to my mother’s funeral it was really hard hearing everybody talk about how wonderful she was. I cried a lot there but not because I was sad she died. The tears were for unresolved issues.

      • wow that’s what i told my Hubby, i will grieve but not because they’re gone, i would grieve for what i wish could have been.
        Closure is the only reason to consider going. geeze you really get me!

      • LOL, you can be the ‘sister’ I never had-the sister I actually get along with! lol πŸ˜‰

        *My sister, bless her, tries to be my mother (or did when I was growing up) and is just starting to see I’m an adult. She’s only 3 years older than me.

      • Oh yes, my sister has always tried to fill in as my mother because she knew my mom wasn’t up to it. That’s a lot of responsibility on a young person but she did it. I was usually not appreciative though because she was a typical sister too. We are, and always have been, opposites in most everything. So I try to simply appreciate her intentions even if they drove me nuts for most of my life!

      • I can see where she is coming from then for sure. My sister and I are opposites too. Sadly she’s a narcissist, the father taught her well. So we don’t have a relationship, but i love her and i’m sad that she’s so messed up and can’t see it. she can’t see she was abused.

      • Aw, my sister is not Narcissistic like my mother was but I do think she has a personality disorder with elements of narcissism. She doesn’t deny there was abuse growing up but tends to minimize it a great deal. She tries to keep the past in the past with respect to the abuse anyway.

      • the past in the past seems to be the minds set of the baby boomer generation and then passed down some. weirdly that’s the way the father thinks but i was never convinced of it.

      • Ah, yes but I can’t judge her. It’s how she copes. She has a young daughter to care for and other responsibilities that would be disrupted by her facing the abuse. As the main earner it would be impossible for her to start digging into anything like abuse since we both know it can turn your life upside down.

      • that’s the same with my sister. sadly the parents continue to use and abuse her. i worry for my nephews too, i they do sleep overs with the father and i don’t think it’s safe for them. i told their father that too.

      • yeah he for one prides himself on discipline, and brags about it with laughter, often not necessary…he rages…and i won’t say i’m not worried about the other form that i can’t bring myself to type.

      • yes i’m worried about it. 😦

        i know he loves “discipline” i was witness before i moved away to one of his bragging sessions over having to discipline my youngest nephew. it broke my heart.

      • my sister does not see anything. it’s brutal. i did talk to the boys father about the father potentially not being safe for the boys. their father believes me and just said, they are not there often anymore, and he can’t restrict all contact…which i understand as the sister would have to open her eyes for him to be able to do that…they are newly divorced, but get along

      • Aw, geez that’s a dreadful situation to be in. It’s so hard when you’re on the outside looking in and can’t do anything you want to that would help. I feel your frustration and concern. It’s similar for me with my sister but I don’t know her partner’s parents very well. They seemed okay the one time I met them. You can’t control it so it causes anxiety but I’ve pretty well learned to not interfere. I don’t know how you can do anything more because your sister is the decision maker. Really I wish there was a way to protect the innocent from those we suspect may do something but it’s nearly impossible. My mother tried to protect her youngest sister from her father the pedophile and mostly succeeded but not 100% Still she did everything she could and you’ve done everything you can to try and protect your nephews. Hopefully your sister will wake up before anything truly horrible happens.

      • thank you. it is hard but i have done what i can and i have to sadly let go. i really wish she would wake up for the sake of the boys. she see’s the father as “her god on earth” she’s actually said that…lol but he’s groomed her like that too, she is the favourite child and i’m the targeted one.
        he’s done some really creepy things with her, that you think would give anyone a clue but nope she’s totally blind…
        i fear the worst could have already happened with the boys if it was going to. i told a therapist about my concerns while i still lived in the same town and he almost went straight to the police. i was so confused…about whether that was a good idea or not, Hubby more so…he was talked out of it only because i wouldn’t have had solid proof..part of me still regrets police weren’t contacted…anyway, ugh

      • Wow, that must be so difficult. I can only imagine how you must feel like you’ve been backed into a corner, so to speak, with your hands tied. No evidence and it’s almost impossible to prove anything. I hate that. In a way it’s good but not for cases such as you’re in. For your nephews sake I hope they haven’t been harmed from SA. That is such a soul killer.

        I’m not going to ask about the creepy stuff because mom told me enough creepy sh*t to last me several lifetimes about her father. Ugh.

        How is it the sane ones end up painted as crazies? We see the blemishes and we’re told WE need fixing! I mean please! I hope there comes a day the human population collectively awakens from their stupor because we’re all going to keep on paying if they don’t.

      • Arrested? Ha! No, my mother was made to leave home when she told her mother about what had happened. The sicko died at 60 in the early 1980s. Her mother didn’t support her at all. So at 17 mom left the country for the city and survived as best she could.

  2. I’m totally with you on this – we don’t have a big income right now either, so I’m scaling way back this Chrismakkah. It’s the first one ever without my mom here, too, since she moved across the country this year. So I’m cutting back to just a couple of gifts for those closest to me, and I do virtually all my shopping online – have for years. I LOVE that.

    So don’t feel bad about it – it’s more important to have a nice time with family at the holidays, and to show them love all year round, then to shower them with stuff at the holidays. And if they don’t like that philosophy, then THEY can stuff it. Tee hee. πŸ˜›

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