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The "Happiness Holiday"

The holidays have started to fade into the haze of “in 2016 I’m going to…” and “this year is going to bring…” and other “promising” New Year resolutions, and while everyone looks forward into the next 12 months that will continue unfolding the chapters of their lives, I find myself looking backwards. Looking back one week to be exact, right around December 24th when I was genuinely concerned that my debt-filled credit card would call me to declare war. Thanks holiday purchases!

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Despite this minor anxiety, I’m actually ok with credit card debt. Trust me, having loans teaches you how to cope with the bone crushing feeling of a debt anvil. It was the feeling of being cheated from the emotional goodness I was promised from 1950’s holiday movies that created an internal conflict.
Truth is, over the years the meaning and purpose of Christmas has become more and more diluted, shifting far away from its religious roots and landing in a pool filled with advertisements, iPads and flat screen TVs. That’s right, the big fat white Santa everyone teaches their children to believe will come down their chimney with gifts is actually just a fictional character designed by Coca Cola for a commercial in the 1930s. “Santa” became famous faster than Twista can rap “overnight celebrity.”
The same way Coke brought the fat guy into the homes of millions, other companies jumped in on the fun and started spending massive amounts of money advertising merchandise that they brainwashed you into thinking you needed to celebrate the season in an extra special way. In comes extreme pressure of chaotic consumerism.
Not meaning to get all Grinch-y over here, but I’ve started questioning if this system is really something I want to contribute to.

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When my family asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told them, “don’t get me anything please, I’m just excited to go home and spend time with you.” Of course, my shopaholic mother didn’t take that as an answer. So when she made me give another answer, I said, “money for a bike would be great, but seriously you don’t have to get me anything.” As a traveler, you realize you can’t have a bunch of crap to lug around because if it doesn’t fit in your backpack, or help you get from one destination to the next, it’s probably not necessary.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for receiving “things,” I know that my family, much like most other American families, expects gifts, because massive corporations brainwashed them into thinking they needed their products, because ’tis the season to be jolly and give give give. I prepared well for the consumerist battle and shopped for my family’s presents an entire week before flying home on a stressful flight from LA to NYC. Great success. A few swipe-a-roos later and I was all ready to contribute to the commercial celebration.

Christmas Eve rolls around and my family and I exchanged gifts in what seemed like the fattest and fullest tree we’ve ever had; one to three gifts per person which is already a bit of an exaggeration. Of course, no one listened to my request and I ended the night with so many gifts that I had to make an executive decision to check a bag on my way back home. The gifts were so intense this year that my 3-year-old nephew got enough presents alone to fill a toy room the size of a standard Starbucks, how’s that for #consumerism? I understand the good intention and appreciate it, but the last thing I need are “things,” and the last thing my family needs is more debt themselves buying “things” none of us really need. How does this make sense?!
The excessive wrapping paper, the overwhelming amount of gifts, and the extra weight that I would have to squeeze into my luggage made me physically ill; so much waste. The traveler in me thinks about how many trips could have been purchased, or how many adventures could’ve been booked that would’ve created a life-long memory for the same amount of money. All impossible now because the early months of 2016 will be spent paying off credit card debt; which is probably why the cheapest time to fly all year is in early January. Everyone’s too broke to afford full-fares, so airlines ease up and offer cheaper rates, at least there’s a tiny silver lining.
I felt lucky to have a home filled with my amazing family, but at the same time felt like the gifts weren’t enhancing our time together, but were completely getting in the way. With all the new gadgets and gizmos (that will probably be outdated when a newer version comes out within less than six months), we slowly started branching out into different conversations, or into text messages to friends explaining what was happening. So instead of bonding together, we let the crap get in the way. The whole experience lit a fire within me that made me realize there needs to be a better way.
It’s like I’m stuck in the middle of a terrible tug of war between consumerism and quality time with my loved ones during the holidays.
Also, since when did buying people things validate your love or care for them anyways? Buying “THINGS” is a cop out to actually doing something meaningful; experiencing something together. And don’t get me wrong, I’m clearly guilty of participating in this cop out consumerist machine. However, because I’m not one for complaining without acting on it, I’ve thought up a solution: create our own damn holiday to celebrate however and with whomever we decide.
Of course, we can’t deny that one might experience a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out syndrome) from the stress of December’s shopping scramble, but would we really be missing out?
My holiday would include my family and closest friends all in one place, absolutely no shopping, no gifts, unless they were homemade and big enough to fit in a backpack. If there were gifts involved, there would have to be a creative game to distribute said gifts. We’d have endless music flowing in the house, healthy home-cooked food that everyone would have to cook together. We’d make a toast to happiness, and enjoy a night of games documented by a Polaroid.
Because I know my ideal solution won’t happen overnight, I might have to call a family meeting and start coordinating a “Happiness Holiday” for 2016. Who’s in?

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