How to Have a Capitalism Free Christmas
It’s officially December and while for many that means a break from school or work, for others, it also means it's time to celebrate. There are many holidays celebrated across a variety of cultures during this season but none are as commercialized as Christmas. Traditionally, Christmas is a Christian holiday but it has evolved into a cultural and commercial phenomenon celebrated across the globe. Over the past quarter-century, it has been reportedly celebrated by 93% to 96% of Americans. While the holiday originally started as a religious tradition, some now see it as “intoxicated by consumerism” and since America’s capitalism is the root of many problems in this country, such as overworked employees including fast-food, retail, and mail delivery service workers, which skyrockets during this time of year, let me introduce you to some ways to have a Christmas that is not overpowered by consumerism and capitalism.
Why should you want to have a holiday filled with less consumerism and contribution to capitalism? I am not here to tell you that any economic and political system is better than the other, however, there are some inherent issues that come along with capitalism, and being less complicit in capitalism can help people contribute less to these problems. Capitalism can be defined as “an economic system based on free markets and limited government intervention” and while advocates argue that it is the “most efficient economic system,” some economists criticize capitalism for its ability to cause a variety of issues including, “inequality, market failure, damage to the environment and excess materialism.” While these issues are seen year-round, the holidays can increase the rate of them.
One of the largest issues often associated with capitalism is inequality since only a small percentage of the population acquire wealth and the benefits are therefore not equally distributed. Furthermore, this inequity leads to classism, “the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class group” (which unfortunately intersects with racism as well). During the holiday season, this unequal distribution greatly affects poor and working-class citizens due to an increased rate of consumerism. Greater amounts of consumerism means many people are forced to overwork themselves at their jobs because of the increased business and not being able to have the privilege to simply not work. So, while the privileged and wealthy comfortably spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars, those who are delivering their packages or handling their transactions at retail stores are earning a fraction of that in a day. Additionally, the people who make the product are further underpaid.
Additionally, capitalism not only exploits people, but it exploits nature and has negative effects on the environment. Capitalism’s ability to prosper relies on using nature “as an ‘inexhaustible’ supply of resources to produce commodities or as a waste dump.” Therefore, the greater amounts of consumption and production, the greater natural resources are being used. Additionally, increased production means movement of products as well and both can contribute to the release of greenhouse gas emission which contributes to climate change. The commercialized Christmas that is portrayed today, encourages this increased capitalistic consumption in the form of copious gift-giving without considering how unsustainable it can be and the way it negatively impacts the environment.
Another argument against the commercialization of Christmas is the way it has shifted the original Christian holiday traditions. Now, the holiday is not centered only on religion and has become a cultural phenomenon, but it has very different origins from the holiday we know today. “For thousands of years, humans celebrated the winter solstice and the Christmas holiday with meaningful traditions that included prayer, and rituals from special fires to honoring plants for fertility” and “Hysterical shopping was not a part of any of these celebrations.” Another shift in the holiday that contributes to the capitalist nature is the use of Santa Clause as a marketing tool with the familiar image of him today being created by Coca-Cola. Because of this, there are many people of various beliefs who do not wish to celebrate the holiday in a commercialized way and have forgone “the Santa and gift-giving aspects of the holiday while fully embracing that which they do believe in — almost universally the time spent sharing food and drinks with loved ones.” Through this, they are able to celebrate without contributing greatly to the capitalistic aspects.
I know Christmas is an important holiday for many and it is every individual’s personal decision on how they choose to celebrate. However, if you’ve ever felt the negative effects of capitalism or are empathetic to those who have, it might be beneficial to think about how you can contribute to a less capitalist-driven Christmas. Gift giving is a fun significant part of the holiday and there are ways you can still participate without greatly contributing to capitalism and without hurting your pockets. Generally, your loved ones will appreciate whatever you give them so whether it be an act of service, such as doing someone’s nails or spending quality time together such as taking someone to their favorite park for the day these can be a great way to give back to the ones you love this holiday season. If you’re crafty, handmade gifts are a great alternative as well, especially when you already have the supplies. Don’t be afraid to get creative and we can all try to be a little more ethical or sustainable with our gift-giving this year!
Featured Image Via Visual Stories || Micheile