Merry Shopping and a Happy New Car?

I’ve heard holiday come-ons before, but these take the cake.

Last week, a friend told me that a few years ago, in the midst of the holiday season, she received a circular in the mail with the words “Merry Shopping, and a Happy New Car” bolded, italicized, in big red and green block letters, splayed across the front page. At first she couldn’t believe anyone would stoop to such a materialistic play, or more accurately, ploy. Her young son wondered too.

“Why did they say shopping instead of Christmas and car instead of Year, Mom?”

Here was a teachable moment—a way to show her son the absurdity of these materialistic transpositions. Since his parents had emphasized togetherness and charity and de-emphasized commercialism during the Christmas season, her son had no trouble understanding.

A new family tradition emerged. The whole family dances around their home and sings “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” substituting the words of the ad.  The new rendition’s even been tacked on as a regular number in their neighborhood holiday caroling; singers and listeners alike explode into rollicking laughter.

Driving down the West Side Highway a few days ago, I saw an ad for Kenneth Cole that pictured a brightly wrapped and ribboned box, accompanied by the words, “Embrace the Present.” Kudos to Kenneth Cole, for at least suggesting, with this double entendre, that we have a choice whether to embrace the thing in the box or the moment, the now.

Opening to each other’s presence, rather than their presents, is the ultimate gift. Messages like “Merry Shopping, and a Happy New Car” are sadly becoming mainstream as the holidays become more and more commercialized.

This one is even scarier.

The day before Thanksgiving, DSW sent out an email with this subject line, “Thanksgiving day online…Insane Prices…eat your turkey at your computer.” If we accept this as the new normal, if being with loved ones in a meaningful way is increasingly overshadowed by meaningless buying, we’re falling down a rabbit hole from which we’ll never emerge.

One fun way to take a step back and reground yourself is for you and your loved ones to watch Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping’s classic “What Would Jesus Buy”, available on Amazon and YouTube.

For more ideas on how to do that, here’s the link to my blog post about it.

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Note from Jane Klein, the subject of “Merry Shopping and a Happy New Car?”:

Love it! I am honored that you chose to recount this story. I can’t wait to show my son and husband!

Your voice is SO needed on this topic. It’s gotten absolutely sickening how the meaning behind holidays—being thankful for abundance, friends, family and health; rejoicing in the message of peace and goodwill toward humankind—has been distorted and hijacked, sacrificed at the alter of our consumption-for-its-own-sake society.

Thank you for writing this! We need more voices of reason in this world. I will pass it on.

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