Holidays and consumerism/materialism - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 11-27-2010, 08:42 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm having a hard time with this.  I think holidays should be about PEOPLE (well, as should life) and I personally would be happy doing minimal gifts (Maybe mostly hand-made gifts), volunteering, and spending some time with family on Christmas.  I told someone else the "hand-made gifts only" idea and they think it sounds terrible, like I'll be depriving my kids of such a wonderful childhood joy of getting lots and lots of toys that will:

1)clutter up our house when we already have too many toys

2)likely be ignored/broken/thrown out at some point down the line (even if we donate them eventually to someone else, cheap plastic toys don't last forever) which will just create even more of that garbage problem for generations to come

3)teach our kids that real joy comes from getting something new and unnecessary that someone else had to purchase... yeah, let that follow you into adulthood.

4)remind our kids that real "fun" is without thought of consequences... because kids shouldn't be burdened with knowing that that cool toy they have was put together by 10 year olds working 14 hour days and are probably tainted with lead.  too much worry, just buy them what they want.


So I know I think too much and I've wanted things before, but looking at our whole world, a good number of people don't even have a roof over their head or sufficiant food so am I really THAT bad if I decide to at least minimalize this materialism and "ME!" way of thinking. 


ALSO, I am just a bit overwhelmed at the number of toys coming in from grandparents for holidays and birthdays each year that if some of that money went into the kids' savings accounts instead, it would be SO much more helpful in the long run.  But I've suggested before and it mostly gets ignored.


And for the record, I'm not perfect and we've bought cheap plastic stuff before, but it really bothers me for the reasons above and I don't want to teach my kids to ignore all that in the name of materialism.

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#2 of 9 Old 11-27-2010, 09:31 PM
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I hear you.  I have to admit, I do a really good job of being careful and mindful the whole year through (well, we are definitely not perfect, but anyway).  When it comes to Christmas I use it as my time to cut loose a little.  Buy the kids a few toys they just want.  Get myself some nice things.  I'm still mindful of where the stuff is coming from, but I'm more willing to let a little more enter our lives, if that makes sense.



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#3 of 9 Old 11-28-2010, 10:16 AM
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Balance is the key.  While I do agree that the modern holiday season has turned into something ugly and gluttonous in many ways, I also think that kids have different needs than adults.  Kids look forward to Christmas and talk about Christmas with each other in a very different way than adults.  It is a magical and special time in the eyes of a child and there are plenty of ways to preserve that wonder without giving in to out and out greed. 


My family (and mother in particular) was very adamant about prioritizing and limiting the things that came into our home during the year.  My sister and I were never the children who got to pick something out every time we did errands and there was never an endless stream of things coming in to our home.  Another way she helped to limit the "stuff factor" with extended family was to encourage experience based presents.  Contributing to college funds is all well and good but it can feel less than exciting.  Museum passes or trips, audio books, classes (art, dance, sports etc...) are all great ways for kids to gain experience and have fun without filling your house to the brim (and family members are generally more excited to give these types of gifts than money for college).


When it comes to Christmas, I think trying to turn the holiday into an adult centered experience can have consequences down the line.  Think about it from your children's point of view, they live in your house, are unable to purchase their own clothes, food, furniture, artwork, entertainment etc... This is all to be expected and there is nothing wrong with it, but thinking about Christmas as a time to ask for something impractical or silly just because is not going to ruin all your hard work.  As with most adults, even the most conscious and well balanced children occasionally need to do/get/ask for something just because.  Limit the number of items and try to frame the holiday as a time to ask for those few things that they have been thinking about/wishing for all year.  Think of Christmas as a time to reward patience and thoughtfulness.  If they have been wishing for something particular all year and waited patiently for it I see nothing wrong with rewarding that within reason.  It's also important to emphasize the other aspects of the holiday (family meals, traditions, making decorations together, singing, telling stories, volunteering, giving thanks, and giving gifts to others).


If your children ask for toys such as train sets, American girl dolls, legos (basically gifts that can be built upon slowly) you can get things little by little for birthdays and Christmas over the years.  This can help teach them to wait and build up a collection of items that they truly love slowly. 

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#4 of 9 Old 11-28-2010, 02:13 PM
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My family always emphasized time, family and a few carefully selected thoughtful gifts vs. massive stuff at the holidays, whereas dh family was/is (IMO) excessive about material things at the holidays.  We have gradually been able to convince them to whittle it down, or at least direct it to stuff that is more useful, such as clothes (my kids love getting new clothes LOL)  We have a tradition with the kids, started with ds1 when he was very little, of making a paper chain that counts down the days until Christmas with something special to do each day.  Sometimes it is a simple as hot chocolate with marshmallows or watching a Christmas movie.  We also do crafts, sign cards, pick out/make teacher gifts.  Other times, it is picking out a toy for a child in need or donating items to the food bank.    By doing this, it teaches them about giving as well as receiving, that the focus is spending time together, and is a nice long celebration of the season with less high stress days.  One year, when it was just ds1, I took him to the store with a printout of a holiday helper family in need from MDC, gave him the cash that I had set aside for his Christmas and had him choose gifts for the family.  I thought he would only pick out a couple of items for the kids, but he spent almost all of his Christmas money, knowing that what was left would buy his Christmas presents, and spent hours finding just the right toys and clothes for them, and even added things that he would like that were not on the list and sent them to the family.  Dh and I used the money that we were going to spend on each other for the parents.  Now, years later, ds1 still talks about it with fond memories.  And it was one of the favorite Christmases we have had.

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#5 of 9 Old 11-29-2010, 09:04 AM
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#6 of 9 Old 11-29-2010, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by philomom View Post

Start with this book.


And this video...

Thank you for sharing such a touching video clip.  It really helped my resolve to be a conscious consumer and pass that on to my own children.  I think shopping locally and supporting small businesses is another important way to keep things in balance, vote with your dollars.

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#7 of 9 Old 12-07-2010, 01:33 AM
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Oh, I love the youtube video. I am pretty not christian. And I totally love this message. Searching for some non-material... alternative... relationship oriented ways to celebrate the holidays this year... I'd love to hear your story. 

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#8 of 9 Old 12-07-2010, 10:22 AM
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Well as a practicing Catholic I'm down right offended by the crazy materialism around Christmas. And honestly, I'd be offended if I followed any religion that has a celebration around the solstice. Our culture is making a mockery of sacred traditions. These holidays (all the religious celebrations around the solstice) should be a reminder that there is more to life than stuff! But instead it's all about collecting more crap. Ugh. It makes me really sad!

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#9 of 9 Old 12-12-2010, 11:57 AM
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-Ask for memberships to museums, zoos, etc.


-Ask for timeless toys (blocks, legos, dolls, costumes, train sets.)  Our favorite all-time toy is the GeoTrax and we buy something every year for that.


-Every December before the holiday, go through their toys and choose ones for them to donate/give away (older kids can help choose.)  Throw out the broken ones.  We weed out a lot this way.


-If you receive too many toys, keep them for birthday presents for other kids during the year.


-Do the good altruistic things you want to do with the kids, and don't worry so much about changing your extended family's behavior.  You likely cannot, and you will just waste your own energy that you could use at a soup kitchen, etc.


-Remember that YOU are a much bigger influence on your kids than your extended family.  Explain to them the bigger meaning of the holidays, and also indulge their excitement about the holidays.  You can do both.  You can also buy LESS.  My dad (born 1931) remembers every toy he got as a child, b/c they all got ONE toy each xmas! 


All these winter holidays are about light - it's dark, the days are short, it's cold - it's natural to want to party!  It is possible for religious beliefs to coexist with natural human responses to the seasons without it somehow diminishing the spiritual meaning of the holidays.

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