While listening to to the radio on my drive home from the office, I heard an advertisement which reminded me that the "true spirit of the holidays is giving. And specifically, giving them the brand names that they want."
At one point I think the messages were limited to Christmas. But I suspect that somewhere along the line, advertisers realized that they were missing out on other opportunities to sell people stuff, and they broadened their message to include all the "holidays."
Now, the "Holidays are too materialistic" has become an old cliched trope, and I know it. But I think it is cliched for a reason--every year, we are assaulted from all sides from advertisements that are not selling us food or clothing or perfume, but holiday cheer and family harmony. The message that our lives will be better if we just purchase whatever product is on offer is not subtle.
On a par with this is the message that our holidays need to be perfect. Images of the holidays include immaculately decorations, well-dressed and smiling family members, and a lush spread of food. A Google search for "perfect Christmas" brings up "Pick the perfect Christmas gift," the "Perfect Christmas Tree," and Barbie's Perfect Christmas.
And so it deserves to be said, as it is every year, that the holidays do not have to be a frenzied time of over-spending and high expectations. Instead, this time of year can be a time to reflect on family, on the ending of one year, on celebrating what is good in our lives.
Instead of stressing over the perfect holidays, I can choose to take time to remember what it is about this time of year that is meaningful for me. I can remember traditions that I enjoy, and I can listen to music that makes me feel connected to the season and to my family. I can put up decorations that make me feel good, and I can eat foods that I associate with good memories.
Let me end by paraphrasing Nat King Cole: Although it's been said many times, many ways, remember that your holidays are what you make of them.
And a couple of links... Here is a blog entry from psych central with some ideas for gifts that do not cost money.
And below is a satirical video I found on YouTube that made me laugh.