Merry Mass OverConsumption

While a number of people still celebrate Christmas for the nativity of Jesus, most regard it as an occasion for partying, over-indulgence, the ritual exchange of gifts and mass overconsumption. The gift-exchange aspect of Christmas becomes ever more prominent as the holiday spreads beyond its Christian origins and insinuates itself into cultures all around the globe.

Around this time every year, my inner Scrooge comes out and I think, Christmas is simply out of control. We buy way too much stuff, giving presents to people who don’t really want or need the stuff, who in turn give us stuff we don’t want or need. I literally have 25 or 30 woolen sweaters piling up in my closets, shirts I don’t need, pants I don’t need, jackets I don’t need. Why? I tell people, don’t buy me more stuff, I can’t use it, I don’t have anywhere to put it, I’ll have to give it away, but they do it anyway.

Bah, humbug!

How many million tons of Christmas wrapping winds up in the landfills around the country? How many closets, basements and attics are crammed with stuff we can’t use but don’t dare get rid of because Aunt so-and-so gave it to us and her feelings would be hurt? How much square footage do we add to our houses to hold all of this stuff? How much more are we paying on our mortgages for that square footage? How much do we expend in BTUs to heat that space? How much are we racking up debt on our credit cards?

Bah, humbug!

To what degree can the endemic balance-of-payments deficit and plummeting value of the U.S. dollar be attributed to our Christmas mania for buying more stuff? To what extent will future historians trace the decline of American power to indebtedness brought on, like those villagers in South America you read about in first-year anthropology classes, by our inability to reel in our propensity for exchanging gifts?

Bah, humbug!

How much energy is consumed producing, packing, transporting and disposing of all this stuff? How much pollution is emitted as a result? What irreparable damage are we doing to the environment? I shudder to contemplate.

We need to resurrect Ebenezer Scrooge — the authentic, skin-flint Scrooge, not the wimpy, spread-the-Christmas joy Scrooge he became after the Christmas ghosts scared the bejeebers out of him — and make him the new national icon.

(Photo credit of Alistair Sim as Scrooge in the 1950 movie “Scrooge”: Mudsugar.)

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6 responses to “Merry Mass OverConsumption”

  1. I could not agree more. Well done and bah humbug

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Unfortunately, economic cycles depend on Christmas trade and have for years. Those forces are so powerful, I don’t realistically see what can be done about them. And “Mass Overconsumption,” sounds so obnoxiously Calvinistic. It assumes that everyone buys hundreds of unneeded things. That’s not necessarily true in my household and it’s wrong of you to assume it is true in every family.

    Merry Christmas anyway.
    Peter Galuszka

    PS: For someone agnostic, you sure sound so Protestant. Reminds me of an interview I had in Moscow with a newly-hatched Russian adman. He was telling me what was wrong with the Western approach in pushing Snickers bars.

    “In America,” he said, “young man rides bike up beautiful mountain. Works hard, so hard he sweats. Finally — top of mountain. And then — reward — Snickers bar in pocket.

    “Won’t work in Russia. Why? Too Protestant! In Russia, young man would be sitting hungry in gutter. Then, miraculously, Snickers bar is delivered to him down from heaven. That is Russia way. Miracles.”

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    My husband and I don’t do the usual Christmas gifts, etc. This year for Christmas he wanted the leaves removed from our lot so he wouldn’t have to do it and could keep writing. I paid. Done! He then donated a comparable amount to Alice Lloyd College, which enables students in Appalachia to work their way through college, which was what I wanted. Done!

    Neither of us went to the mall. And there’s nothing to dust or store.

    Merry Christmas!

    Deena Flinchum

  4. Anonymous Avatar


    Being the world’s policeman and spending a trillion dollars on foreign wars are bankrupting the American Empire.

    Combine that with the inflation caused by the Federal Reserve and you end up with the housing bubble and a sinking dollar.

    So celebrate Christmas by maxing out for RonPaul2008.

    Spread the message of peace.

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    we buy Christmas for two kids each year. Half is supposed to be toys that they specify ask for in their letters and half is winter clothing.

    It’s interesting to read their letters (Red Cross Santa)…

    we never get to see them nor their parents.. totally anonymous except for their letters…to Santa.

    .. we are so fortunate in this country… compared to other countries and the kids in other countries who have virtually nothing.. and who face a hard life as an adult.

    Christmas is the time.. when we should .. think about others…as much as ourselves…

    and what we can do as individuals and a country to help folks not so fortunate as us…

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Well here is wishing each and every one an apolitical christmas, a happy one with frinds and family. Also for a prosperous New Year, green, if you can manage it.

    Ray Hyde
    Ashby Glen Farm

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