Seasonal shopping, token gestures

There is a wheel of the year for consumers, moving us neatly from one shopping opportunity to another. Valentines, mother’s day, Easter, father’s day, summer beach things and barbeques, then Halloween and Christmas. On the given days you are to run out and buy the right things for the right people. In theory you are celebrating your family, and doing nice things for them. When you’re told to, and by buying stuff.

Little moments in the year when you can assuage your guilt over all the things you don’t do the rest of the time, perhaps. Fuelled by adverts that encourage you to feel a tad guilty and that reinforce the sense of what other people expect from you. An approach demanding token, commercial gestures, as though spending money on a few days of the year is what it takes to have a relationship. Of course if everyone is doing it – taking Mum out for Sunday lunch on a specific day, going out for a meal one night of the year… the pressure to be part of that is vast, and the sense of alienation and loss if you don’t, or can’t, or don’t have those people, or have such a poor relationship that it wouldn’t be viable… If we could measure the total of human shame, anxiety and distress caused by the commercial wheel of the year and weigh it against the happiness it causes, I do not think happiness would win.

If course if you’re dealing with someone who mostly doesn’t bother, then the making of effort a few times a year has a heightened value, and the failure to honour key dates seems like a bigger deal. The partner who doesn’t even remember your birthday and can’t manage a Valentines card and takes you for granted on all the other days as well, is really depressing to deal with.

And so we end up with these little, seasonal pockets of overload, when there can be too much. Patters of feast and famine in our exchanges, and the difficult sudden bursts of expense. The burden of Christmas can be terrible for people on low incomes.

I like gifting people with things when I can, and just because. I take more joy in small, ongoing exchanges of things – often far less commercial – loaning, sharing and passing on also being important parts of this process. Relationship is not something you buy for people on key dates. It is what we do for each other, together, from one day to the next. Every day.

The Easter Eggs have been in the shops for weeks already. Of course we all have to buy them, because it’s fun, paying through the nose for shaped chocolate to give to people who probably don’t need it. Especially children. We’re well under way with an obesity epidemic. What fun we can have stuffing their little faces with eggs! It’s all about the fun, and anyone (me, invariably) who questions the fun is of course a misery and a spoilsport. The problems could not possibly lie with the festivities of consuming, and anyone who dares to suggest it is just a bitter killjoy intent on making everyone else miserable. (I figured I’d get in early and pre-empt the usual comments, because there’s always one).

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Seasonal shopping, token gestures

  • angharadlois

    I hear you!
    It’s the excessiveness that particularly bothers me – driven by consumerism and our unquestioned need for “growth”. A small chocolate egg can be a lovely way to celebrate the season, but being encouraged to get in early for multibuy offers is profoundly depressing.

    Having said that, I tend to get a bit twitchy around Valentine’s Day, because my social media stream fills up with people congratulating themselves on how they show their love “every day of the year” and not just when “consumerism” tells them to (even though February has been a traditional time to celebrate romantic love for the last 600+ years). Which is lovely, if you loved one is with you “every day of the year” for that to be the case; when they are not, having special days set aside to celebrate these things makes a lot of difference. But you still don’t have to spend any money to make them special!

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Of course there is the option to give it all up as I did a great many years ago. Nor does anyone have to buy me anything on any of the holidays. No pressure, no cost, and no disappointment.

  • Chris Hurst

    We have a bit of a different relationship with these Spending Times. People who want us to make things so they can gift them to others behave in quite extraordinary ways, piling on the pressure and (sometimes) being incredibly rude and bullying. I have decided not to have a Christmas Rush this year. I shall be boundaried, and get on with just the ordinary level of work and ordinary orders. I’m getting too old to try and work crazy hours at the darkest time of the year, just for a daft “celebration” that’s generally over and done with by the time the Queen comes on the telly.

  • Nimue Brown

    I think quiet non-cooperation is the way to go 🙂

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