Column: Overwhelming consumerism is taking over Christmas

The holiday season is supposed to be a season of appreciation, when families come together from around the world to soak up some quality time. But with ever-present advertisements for consumer products promising upwards of 90 percent off retail price, it can be difficult to remember the true meaning of the holiday season. Suddenly, things we did not think we even needed look irresistible with that sale tag hanging around it.

Rarely do we stop to consider why stores are suddenly able to reduce prices so dramatically for the several weeks between the start of the holiday season and when it ends. The truth is, they aren’t able to do this. But they recognize the consumer’s tendency to view more money off the base price as a better deal than taking less money off of a lower base price. In other words, they inflate the base price so that the sales price seems exponentially better. If a person was on the fence about whether or not they wanted to buy a product, this seemingly great deal could be what pushes them over.

Businesses have stopped trying to deny that this occurs. In fact, during the 2014 holiday seasons, Macy’s Department Store actually posted on their website that prices within the previous few weeks were higher than usual based off of the fact that they knew they could discount these higher prices more and entice more purchases.

The evolution of the holiday season as we know it began in the 1800s, when stores began selling specialty holiday decorations. From there, the industry took off and before long, children’s toys, clothing, household items and more lined every shelf during the month of December. As the advertising industry developed, people were unable to escape commercial products being thrust in front of their faces from the beginning of the season to the end.

Do we, as a society, really want to give into this corporate manipulation? When people miss Christmas Eve dinner because they decided to go last-minute shopping, is the end result of a brand-new pair of shoes or video game worth it?

The holidays were not created for corporate profit-making, although it certainly seems like that is what they have become. These days, children look forward to Christmas as a day on which they receive an extraordinary amount of presents rather than a day to spend either reflecting on their faith or enjoying being together with their family. The spirit of the holiday season has been overshadowed by the promise of shiny toys and new smart phones.

Our overwhelming tendency to focus our attention on the material during the holiday season in many ways reflects our decreasing focus on family values. In an age revolving around the evolution of the self, we have stopped caring as much for those close to us as we strive for our own personal goals.

Although precedence sets a bleak expectation for the future of the holiday season, I believe we can return to our familial roots during this time by focusing less on buying the hottest items and more on engaging with those around us. Soon enough, the advertisements and sales tags won’t be enough to pull us away from the time we spend together.

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