My inbox on November 27 was filled with Black Friday deals. My newspaper showed pictures of people in sleeping bags outside stores, waiting for the doors to open.
The buying frenzy has begun.
I am old enough to remember when Christmas was heralded by groups of wandering carolers and not blared from loudspeakers. Today, if Santa appeared overhead at midnight, no one would hear the sleigh bells over the sound of cash registers as people make last-minute purchases. (I know, there are no cash registers any more and frankly there is an entire generation that doesn’t know what one is, but I’m trying to make a point here.)
Back in the day, we didn’t go to a store to buy an over-priced tree. We traipsed to the nearby woods and cut our own tree, and decorated it with paper rings and cut-out snowflakes and strings of popcorn and cranberries.
No, really, we had “store-bought” ornaments. I’m a writer; I exaggerate.
But our gifts were simple and often hand-made: a doll’s cradle from Dad, knitted hats and mittens from Mom. Mom, too busy baking to sew, would wrap up a length of material and a pattern with the promise that the dress would be sewn “after the holidays.”
So okay, we had our own Christmas frenzy of baking and visiting and that long-waited day trip by train to the city to gawk at the decorated windows and spend our allowance on gifts for each other.
Still, Christmas morning was as much about the hot cocoa and gingerbread cookies as the modest pile of presents beneath the tree. All I ever wanted was a book, and once that gift was opened, I was out for the rest of the day.
How did all that blow up to the gargantuan 30-day shopping spree that leaves most people with a debt that won’t be paid off until next November?
And landfills overloaded with cardboard and paper?
It’s out of control and we can’t go back. But I wish we could, just a little. Instead of a mile-high mound of gifts that will be lost, broken, or ignored within the week, how about gifting our loved ones with just one, carefully-chosen and meaningful token of our love?
Like a book.