Christmas commoditised: has capitalism gone too far?

By Holly Downes

Christmas. A time filled with endless mince pies, over-priced mulled wine at Christmas Markets and the most important activity in our superficial Western world – the infamous Christmas shopping spree.

It has become a necessity to take a trip to the chaotic Oxford Street – a road plagued with blinding lights hypnotising the eyes of eager shoppers. Trying to manoeuvre around slow walkers, disoriented tourists, and people carrying one too many shopping bags, every individual has one thing in common – an urge to fulfil their consumerist desires. We spend endless hours wondering around the maze that is John Lewis, cheesy Christmas music blasting into our eardrums as we ogle at their never-ending Christmas range. We walk through the extravagant Selfridges doors, flooding our Instagram stories with their Louis-Vuitton tree, and feeling obliged to make an irrational designer purchase to be regretted approximately six months later.

Inevitably, we are sucked into the quicksand of contactless cards, a technology which has only sped up our holiday buying habits. They are driven by our need to meet expectations – a tree comfortably nestled with wrapped presents, the satisfaction of seeing your child gleam with happiness after receiving every item on their wish list, the mere novelty of winter gift-giving.

Our society has commoditised Christmas. It has become a commercial celebration where love for close ones is now measured by the value of their gifts. The traditional associations of Christmas as a time of charity, gratitude and connection have been demolished by businesses seeking to make profits from the seasonal festivities. It is now a time when companies tell us when the Christmas season commences, forcing the public to enter a frenzy of panic-buying mid-November.

In a society that programmes its citizens to over-consume, we inevitably buy into this standard

Take the recent Tik-Tok viral Chanel advent calendar. Retailing for an extortionate price of $800, whilst its Chanel No.5 perfume bottle shape is picture-perfect, the presents delicately nestled within the calendar can be described as a complete joke. With the tik-toker, Elise Harmon, uploading her daily unboxing of the calendar, each day became more heart-shattering as the gifts comprised of stickers, an empty dust bag, a magnet, and a travel size moisturiser ‘enough to moisturise her left arm’. Being comically referred to as the ‘Fyre festival of advent calendars’, this product is the epitome of a consumerist gimmick.

With traditional chocolate advent calendars being commercialised by large companies, Christmas has converted into a marketing strategy. Products are glorified on bright store displays. Shoppers are guilt-tripped into spending money to create the ‘perfect Christmas’ society we believe we must achieve. Everyone has a Christmas Advent Calendar, so we feel obliged to purchase one as well. Your neighbour has a better outdoor Christmas display, so you feel obliged to purchase more festive lights. Your colleague has pre-ordered from the best turkey retailer for their Christmas dinner, so you feel obliged to do the same. We are slaves to conformity – we want to fit in, so in a society that programmes its citizens to over-consume to achieve the unattainable, we inevitably buy into this standard.

Yet, we have the power to restore the sentimental meaning of Christmas. Whilst we will always be walking reservoirs of cash to money-grabbing businesses, with excessive marketing being inevitable leading up to the festive season, we must reframe our attitudes to remove the overwhelming power of capitalism. When we begin to break away from the forced narrative that ties consumption with ‘togetherness’ and prioritise the traditional association of Christmas rather than one plagued with artificiality, then we can finally celebrate Christmas in its true glory.

Image: _PokemonaDeChroma_ via Flickr

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