Spirit of the season—mall shopping

editorial cartoon by Monica Schwarze
editorial cartoon by Monica Schwarze

As another long-awaited holiday season nears, people are readily preparing for the gathering of family, the singing of carols, decorating the tree with garland, lights and popcorn and, of course, storming the nearest malls, department stores and shopping centers searching for the merchandise tags that declare items as “the perfect stocking stuffer” or “a great gift idea.”

Unfortunately, the latter purpose seems to dominate the holidays today. Instead of an aura of harmony highlighting the spirit of the season, an overbearing scent of commercialism fills the air.

While the holidays were once a time of sharing, they are now a period of reciprocity. The main concern for everyone buying gifts is not the celebration of family, culture or the birth of Christ that it once was, but an investigation of whether or not it is worth it to purchase a gift for someone else. Obligation seems to be the driving force of the shopper who simply seeks a gift to flee the guilt of receiving a present without giving one.

Much to the business industry’s content, and to the holiday’s deterioration of meaning, the holiday season is now about maxing out credit cards, making lists that include everyone who perhaps might give you a gift and frantically searching for the merchandise that will outdo everyone else or will satisfy the gift-giving obligations.

Stores have extended their hours for late night and last minute shoppers, increased inventory, supplied Santa hats for their employees and have highlighted cheery intercom holiday music with instructions directing people to sale areas. Much to the employees’ dismay, they must deal with customers upset about petty problems, ranging from not finding their item of choice to whining about the lines they must stand in to complaining about the shortage of sale items.

Without a doubt, the shopping mall is the place where any individual can be instantly engulfed into the artificial holiday atmosphere. Lights and holly intricately decorate and lead shoppers to the mall Santa Claus. For example, at the Montclair Plaza, the mall charges an outrageous amount for a Polaroid picture ($7.50 for the single shot and $33 for a package) while pretending to listen to the child’s plea. Yet, while gold jingle bells tied with scarlet velvet bows and the crimson blinking noses of Rudolph are present all around, they fall short from diverting attention away from those infamous red banners that scream SALE.

Rather than the commercialism that is produced from the season, the holidays should be a celebration that can be found in our homes and not at the mall. They should be about family, reflection on the past year and about being thankful.

A large number of people seem to be desentisized to the true meaning of the holidays and what it is all about. Holiday parades now have commercial sponsors and everything has to have a tag, whether price or advertising, to it. It is easy to go through the season with remembering the true meaning of the holidays.

Whatever happened to family gatherings by the Christmas tree or the lighting of the menorah? How about baking homemade cookies and making homemade gifts?

Just because it is better to give than to receive, does not mean that the true meaning of Christmas should be overlooked for a cheap price tag. The holidays are about togetherness, love and celebrating the continuation of life another year with family, friends and loved ones. Maybe if people spent a little more time at home appreciating one another and less time at the mall, some of the holiday cheer would prevail not only in spirit but in tangible everyday life.

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