Dec 23, 2008

Did I Sell Out to Christmas Consumerism?

A few hours I ago I posted a lamentation about my 3-hour odyssey into Christmas shopping craziness. I want to explore a bit more my discomfort and self-judgment.

It's not that I wasted a bunch of money, nor spent it against our ethics. The purchases were mostly groceries to welcome and treat our new friends at the Boxing Day party we're hosting for however many of the 31 invited families are able to swing by for that home-made eggnog. I shopped at our wonderful locally-owned Community Farm Store, bought organic and local as much as possible, and feel satisfied that it will all lead to genuine merriment for our children and friends.

What bothers me, in addition to the stress of holiday crowds and lost snowplay time, is the compulsion I felt to go shopping. That feeling that I just had to go out and buy things to make this Christmas special. We're trying to become people who are freed from that cycle of buying happiness, and there I was in the midst of the throng of North Americans all doing and feeling the same thing. The fact that I made ethical purchases does not take away the inner drive that took me away from my family and launched me into aisle one with a hungry shopping cart.

I first truly discovered this inner drive while living in a remoter-than-Mars fishing village in Tanzania. Whenever something happened - birthday, good work report, a particularly good day - I wanted to celebrate by spending money. It was so poignant because I was living in a village where that simply wasn't possible. There were no treats to be had a the market - no bakeries or imported goodies or new clothes.

Now 15 years later I still felt the need to rush out the day before Christmas Eve buy two more presents for my children (bringing the grand total to 3, plus the tool boxes I'll be building for them tomorrow - still not an excess!) and some more treats for us and our friends. How do we truly exorcise this market demon?

Maybe I should just make friends with this demon, or assert a mastery over its energy. Accept that consumption is necessary, and feel good about having made healthy and ethical choices focused on bringing Joy to others, making our first Christmas in our new home a special, memorable time. Maybe I should just go eat one of those stocking-stuffer fair-trade chocolate balls and let Bowie and Bing sing to me, "May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white."

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