It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but what does that mean?

An art piece depicts the way gifts have become an obsession around the holiday season. (Photo by Masha Krasnova-Shabaeva)

The smells of freshly baked pies and cookies and the sounds of carols fill the air. Children eagerly eye the wrapped boxes beneath their trees, anticipating the joy of Christmas morning, hoping they have done enough chores this year to receive just what they asked for. Malls and online shopping websites are in a frenzy to meet shoppers’ demands, and the origins of this celebration are long forgotten in favour of consumeristic greed.

The tradition of gift exchange at Christmas began as a tribute to the frankincense, myrrh and gold that the Three Wise Men brought upon the birth of Jesus Christ. Since then, it has become the essence of celebrating Christmas, which marks the birth of Jesus, for families around the world, whether they follow the tradition or not.

Retailers have also capitalized upon the opportunity to increase sales around the holiday, and it is now common to see holiday-themed advertisements on the radio, billboards, or television.

Parents, children, lovers – it appears all anyone talks about come December are products, presents and prices. The increased use of online shopping has made products more accessible and provided more variety to consumers than traditional shopping can compete with.

A neatly wrapped present, now a major symbol of Christmas. (Photo by Craig D)

To add to the pressure, children as young as five years old are taking the age-old question – what do you want for Christmas? – to the next level with technology like online wish lists. Christmas has become a competition that feeds materialism and the idea that one must have more products that are newer, more expensive, and better than the people around them.

These external measures of value are problematic when considering that Christmas is a holiday celebrated by all ages. We are teaching kindergarteners to want, to compare, and to potentially foster desire, greed and jealousy.

Although it may seem harmless, forming this habit has negative sociological implications, especially for Old Saint Nick. There are parents living under financial constraints that do not allow them to fulfill their children’s extensive wish lists. This reinforces the inequity in socioeconomic classes in modern society.

…it appears all anyone talks about come December are products, presents and prices.

The traditions associated with Christmas are also directly associated with a family’s financial stability as a result of the materialistic nature of the holiday. The size of one’s tree, the number of ornaments on it, the extravagance of Christmas dinner, and of course, presents, are now indicators of how good a family’s holiday will be.

So, is the materialistic focus of Christmas progressive or regressive in nature? In my opinion, considering the ways in which greed and socioeconomic inequity are enhanced by this holiday, it is a testament to the flaws in human nature that we must aim to overcome.

By Sneha Wadhwani

Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.