Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hey Hey Hey

This Black Friday/Cyber Monday business is dangerous!  From every direction, deals bombarded my inbox, my television screen, and my radio (for those of us who still sometimes heart radio).  30% off this.  20% off that.  One day only, until midnight EST, while supplies last, almost sold out.  HURRY!  These stores are trying to fake us out, trying to make us believe that the only time to buy is now.  Even if you weren't planning to.  Sometimes my better judgement wanders away and I think "Yeah man, the time is now.  I gotta buy this!"  But then it comes back with these questions for me:
  1. Do you really need any of this?  
  2. Could this be a gift for someone you know (and love)? 
If the answer is a definitive "no" or a derivative of "no" (like a  "not really"), then I take a seat and let my bank card live in peace.  That's the way it should go.  But two days ago I was guilty in this regard for the first time.  My mind said "no" and my heart (or something posing as my heart) said "Why not?"  

But for real, why not?  Well, people can blow some serious dough either thinking that every offer is the best deal or simply getting sucked into the world of busted budget bubbles at this time of the year.  Some people might feel it necessary or even required.  And if they can't then December 25 is just an empty day.  But if they fly to the moon, in the new year there might be mixed feelings of regret peeking out from underneath all the leftover holiday joy.  Reality's like, "Man, ain't that credit card bill due soon?"  
A painted postcard of the Riverwalk*
Last year was the first time I was able to buy gifts for everyone in my family and I was excited to do so.  But I also felt obligated to do so.  If I hadn't been excited or willing to finally reciprocate past years of generosity, I think I would feel like I had to.  But sometimes it's best to make yourself willing when you find yourself able.  Be generous, be thoughtful.  The thoughtful part can be difficult and not particularly fun to execute.  What do these people want?!  What would they like?  I became a little invested in seeing reactions upon opening gifts (hoping I'd chosen right), which can be a not-so-good thing if that's all that matters.  Or it can be an amazingly entertaining time if it involves my family.  The gifts were lovely, but the expressions on everyone's face, the candid and posed camera snaps, and just acting crazy were the best.  I don't even remember how much I spent altogether.  But I'm pretty sure I didn't burst any bubbles.

Celebrating family is a noble purpose for Christmastime.  The insane shopping and gift-giving facilitates that, right?  And who dislikes receiving gifts?  But back in middle school or early high school I remember wondering why.  I thought that maybe instead of exchanging Christmas gifts we should give gifts for the New Year.  New year, new thing to start it off fresh, special and memorable.  But it's hard to break traditions.  What else are we supposed to do on Christmas day besides tear open gifts and eat?  Reflect? (Yeah, that's a good one) Watch Fat Albert in theaters?  (Um...oh wait, that actually happened)

 Yesterday morning on the radio I heard a snippet of a mother lamenting that she can't afford to get her kids anything for Christmas.  I sympathized for her from afar because stories like that make it seem like Christmas is about presents.  Because the expectation for presents exists and has become ingrained into the culture of the holiday season in the U.S.  We wouldn't hear this same mother talk about how she can't afford to buy her kids a birthday gift at any other time of the year.  Her kids would love Christmas presents, but I imagine that she works hard and often for the majority of the year and her kids would probably really appreciate her presence as a present instead.  If assumptions were always true... Though, I understand her heartbrokenness.  It can feel awful to have to choose to break a tradition.  Can't we still keep the heart in these celebrations without feeling beholden to retail?

The end (of the year) is near.  And I'm wondering what in the world I'm trying to conclude here.  I just pulled myself into a rambling, all because of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday hullabaloo.  Hmm... I guess I will say that everyone should do whatever they like (within reason).  Celebrate Advent, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, and whatever else in a way that best suits you.  But people should also try to live within their means and not dive head first into debt because something's told them they must.  Some advertising has been proven effective.  Overdosing may....

*pretending to be a photo

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