Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Celebrating Christmas Through the Years & a PLEA to You All!

I think that it is an absolute travesty that what should be one of the most joyous and peaceful times of the year has turned into such a cultural cesspool that people are driven to bankruptcy and even death in order to fulfill some perfect vision of what a Holiday should be in their minds!

There, I said it! Get out the whips and flog me.
The current American version of Christmas sickens me.

Some days I feel like Lucy in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, when she said, "Look. Charlie, let's face it.  We all know that Christmas is a big commercial racket.  It's run by a big eastern syndicate, you know."

The celebration of Christmas as we know it in America, has only been around for about 150 years.   Christmas was banned in the Plimouth Massachusetts colony-our first colony that was settled for religious reasons.  Nor was it celebrated in the Jamestown Virginia colony, the first colony that was founded by non-religious concerns.

Christmas only became a socially acceptable holiday in America in the mid to late 1800's.  This 'crusade for a truly American Christmas tradition' was driven by writer Washington Irving's stories and the well-known poem by Clement C. Moore, "A Visit From St. Nicholas".
Graphic Artist Thomas Nast gave us the iconic image of Santa Claus in the 1860's(that the Coca-Cola Company basically appropriated).  With the ending  of the Civil War, the celebrating of Christmas as a national holiday took off.

You may think that the "over-the-top decorating and partying, shopping & gift buying frenzied" celebration of today is a recent evolution of the holiday.  You would be wrong.

In Turn-of-the-century(1900's) New York there was a large backlash among reformers to downsize Christmas.  These reformers called for an end to the commercialization of the holiday--the drunken partying, the lawlessness of the adult celebrating, the hawking by companies on consumers to spend on cheaply made knick-knacks.  The problem then wasn't so bad in rural areas(because of the lack of mass transportation and the instantaneous exchange of information/news), more so in the urban centers in America.  Rural areas of the country retained the more low-key, simpler traditions of homemade gifting and celebrating with family.  Gifts were practical & substantial but did NOT put a person's economic stability at risk to give it.

While it's true that especially since World War II, companies have discovered that Christmas is a wonderful 'gimmick' that they can align themselves with to increase profits, companies have used anything they can think of, all through the last 110 years, to get people to spend as much money as possible on their 'stuff' at Christmas.  Some of the successful early users of Christmas to increase sales of their goods were Coca-Cola, Hallmark, and various Department Stores who hired "Santa Clauses" to listen to little children's toy wants.  By using the kids to get the parents into the stores, that was half the battle to get the parents to open their wallets and spend!  Did you know that the 1st professional school to train Dept. Store Santas was created in 1937?

Somewhere in the last 40 years or so, the American version of Celebrating Christmas has become a full-blown Kid-centric Toy Orgy!  Kids of my generation experienced a very different Christmas in terms of what "Santa" brought down the chimney from the children of today.
In my Husband's family, each child received 1 or maybe 2 toys on their wishlist.  And these gifts were modest in price as hubby's parents at the time were on a low socio-economic level.
In my family, there was a set amount to spend for each kid(determined by my father, depending on how good his income was that year), and my mother bought what was requested from the wishlist until the money ran out.  She literally had each child's money allotment in an envelope that she took to the store.  No credit cards were used to buy whatever the hot toy was at the moment, to be paid off later, on income yet to be earned.

While that system may sound like a lot of  'stuff' was bought, I'll say that most years I received 4 or 5 presents from Santa(not counting the clothes which nobody wanted).lol  My parents in no way spent an extravagant amount.  When I was 16 years old, my 'Santa Loot' amounted to 1/4 of 1% of my father's net income.  And let me add that 'things' were not bought for me continuously throughout the year also.  Christmas and your Birthday(which was good for 1 substantial present)were it for the gift giving for children for the year.

While my husband and I keep the Santa toy-buying for our own children to what we feel is an appropriate amount in terms of numbers and costs, we have seen or heard the absolute ORGY of toys our kid's friends' parents or our friend's have given their kids through the years.  It just boggles my mind why people, for example, feel the need to spend upwards of a Thousand Dollars on a 2 year old's Christmas gifts!

And it's not only people overspending on their childrens' gifts.  It's the other family members' gifts, the co-workers gifts, the friends' gifts, the special clothing, the special food, the special decorating items, the parties, the outdoor light displays, the holiday trips, and on and on and on.....

I blame the media and businesses for the prevalent message every Christmas that in order to have the "perfect" holiday you have to BUY something.  If you have THIS sweater, or THIS tree ornament, or THIS french truffle oil, you will have the BEST Christmas!

I also blame the "keeping up with the Joneses Syndrome".  I MUST spend whatever the other guy spends or one-up-him and spend more.  That means I am just as good as he is or makes me superior in some way.

And lastly, I blame grown-ups who act like children and refuse to exert ANY self-control over themselves and their spending.  Hey!  I work hard so I deserve to buy things I can't afford.  It's my RIGHT!  I'm going to spend what I want to have a Great time and not worry about tomorrow.

Here are my thought on spending money at the Holidays.

It's ok to buy, decorations, special food, etc.
Ok, if you pay CASH.

Let me say that again.

I said CASH.

If you have to put an expense on a CREDIT CARD, it means you can NOT afford it and you should NOT BUY IT!
Don't spend money you don't have!!

If you don't have enough Cash, you can't afford it and you need to RETHINK your Financial Life.
The first step to redoing your Financial Life is to STOP SPENDING MONEY.

Have a simple Christmas.
Go back to giving of your TIME and YOURSELF to your loved ones.
You don't need to buy stuff for other people to have a Happy Christmas.

By STOPPING THE SPENDING THAT PUTS YOUR FAMILY into MORE DEBT, you will bless them so much more than giving them any toy, or sweater, or cheese log ever will!


Merry Christmas,


  1. Yea Sluggy!!! Well said, my friend.
    I have done almost nothing this year and will end up doing very little when it is all said and done. Lots of Heifer and Kiva donations rather than unneeded and unnecessary gifts.

  2. I haven't charged anything since August and am paying off the bills. Last holiday season, I said "if we don't have the money we aren't doing it" and we didn't.
    I would love to be traveling all over as I did in the past, but I haven't got the money.
    Put your child's toy money in a savings account for college. that's a real gift.

  3. Good for you Susan!
    Well done...and when you get those bills paid off it will be so freeing!!

  4. Excellent post!!!!! Not only has Christmas become a commercial cesspool, but there seems to be a campaign to see what other holidays can be turned into slightly smaller versions of the same thing (Halloween springs to mind). Of course, I enjoy both holidays, and I do buy Christmas gifts, but we're TRYING to curb our spending enthusiasm, and we try a little harder every year.

    Thank you for this post!!!!!


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