A Corrupt Holiday? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Why do people exchange gifts on Christmas? If you go back far enough, you’d probably find the answer to be “in celebration,” but as an act of selflessness, not necessity. No one back then would have expected to receive gifts, but it would be expected to give gifts - a way of giving back for all that’s been received. But this is no longer the case. In fact, the opposite is true for many. Nowadays, most give gifts because others expect it, and those giving gifts expect to receive gifts in return. How did it end up this way?

Some think that our feeling of needing to exchange gifts can be primarily attributed to our consumer market. After all, it’s rare to make it past Columbus Day without seeing a commercial advertising the newest gadget that “makes a great gift!” or a big Christmas sale that “starts next week.” From a financial standpoint, it makes sense; why should stores wait until after Thanksgiving to start draining us of our money when they can do it just as effectively before? Morally speaking, though, there’s no way to describe it except as wrong.

When it comes to Christmas, it’s amazing the power the retail industry has over the consumer. It’s not a complicated process, really. First there are the commercials that advertise the newest products and the huge sales, then they shift into the “It’s-not-too-late-to-buy-something-for-someone-you-love” before resorting to outright guilting consumers into buying something for that aunt in Pennsylvania. With these tactics, it’s not hard for them to get most of us into the stores.

Once there, the store has control over a person’s spending since by then the shopper is desperate, so the store can pretty much set the price. For example, my mom worked at a toy store during the Beanie Baby craze a few years back. It was this store’s practice to sell Beanie Babies until a month before Christmas, then take them off the shelves and claim they were sold out, avoiding the need to sell them at the sale price. But, if they happened to get some poor soul who, in a Christmas rush, would come in begging and pleading, offering to pay twice or even triple the price if they could just find this one Beanie Baby, the sales help would say that maybe they could find one in the back. Another sale in the name of Christmas.

But it gets even worse. It’s almost unbearable to watch those for whom you shopped so diligently open their gifts and then assume a sort of sad smile. It may be easy to see that they’re appreciative of what they got, but it’s also easy to see that they didn’t get that one special thing they really wanted. So, for some, it’s back to the store, where they’ll buy the last “UltraWidget” and end up paying ten times the price. They present it to its recipient as a surprise gift they saved until last, and watch his or her face light up when it’s opened. Congratulations, everyone’s happy - but just wait until the credit card bill arrives.

Christmas is meant to be marked by spending time with friends and family, not spending money on them. This year, let’s do it the way it should be done - don’t buy into all of that mass-marketing of Christmas and just be happy that you have what you have. Think of it as Thanksgiving with snow and a tree. You don’t have to change the whole retail industry, just work toward changing yourself.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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