Is Shopping the New Religion?

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

My husband and I were in Sunday School (religous education) recently, and the speaker touched on the topic of the Christian calendar (the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, etc.) that mark the Liturgical (Church)Year. He pointed out that we used to have two main classes of holidays: Holy Days and Patriotic Days. Thus, in the United States, our seasons would be marked by celebrations such as Independence Day and Presidents’ Day, as well as by religious holidays.

Over time, days such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day got added into this mix.  More recently, days exclusively for shopping have become holiday-like and deserving of their own names such as “Cyber Monday” (the best deals on-line), “Black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving and the beginning of the American “Christmas shopping season” and similar to Boxing Day in the UK and Australia.) (You can read more about Black Friday and decluttering here.)

So, is holiday shopping a new phenomena, exclusive to our hyper consumer-oriented culture? It turns out that the answer is: Not so much.

According to Wikipedia, the purpose of the first U.S. Mother’s Days, held in the early 1900s, was to reunited families that had been divided by the American Civil War and were celebrated in church – a combination of patriotic and religious holidays – and mothers wore a white carnation.  However “in part due to the shortage of white carnations, and in part due to the efforts to expand the sales of more types of flowers in Mother’s Day, the florists promoted wearing a red carnation if your mother was living, or a white one if she was dead; this was tirelessly promoted until it made its way into the popular observations at churches.”

Father’s Day was initiated just two years after Mother’s Day, originally in observance of a mining disaster in which many men were killed. It did take longer for it to be officially recognized by Congress – according to Wikipedia because Congress was afraid of it becoming too commercialized!  However, merchandise sales were an important part of the holiday from the beginning. “The Associated Men’s Wear Retailers formed a National Father’s Day Committee in New York City in the 1930s, which was renamed in 1938 to National Council for the Promotion of Father’s Day and incorporated several other trade groups. This council had the goals of legitimizing the holiday in the mind of the people and managing the holiday as a commercial event in a more systematic way, in order to boost the sales during the holiday.”

What did I learn from my research? That the promotion of holidays and shopping is as old as the holidays itself. Yes, I am sure that the intensity of the advertising and promotion has increased. Yes, a diamond necklace for Mother’s Day is a far site different than a white or red carnation, but the association of holidays, religious and secular, with shopping is as old as the holidays itself.

Today’s Declutter Item

Just one more stationary item that has been sitting around unused and needs to be out of here. Another thing for the thrift shop box.


Things that made me happy, made me laugh, made me feel grateful, fascinated me or I thought were just plain awesome.

  • Tissues with aloe vera ~ I have had a bad case of hay-fever today but my aloe vera tissues are kinder to my nose that others I have tried.
  • A hot cup of tea ~ This is a must when hay-fever is wearing you down.
  • That there are no wars in my country ~ I wish there were none anywhere but unfortunately that is not the case.
  • Some days it is enough to be just grateful that the day is done and I can sit back and relax for a while. Today is one of those days.
  • People who go out of their way to be helpful.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.



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Comments

  1. Having lived in a country that did not celebrate American holidays, when we returned to the US, we were shocked at the level of commercialism surrounding every holiday. I think that when you are not exposed to it and then suddenly are confronted with the promotion of the holiday at such crazy levels, you can see it more clearly. At that time, we just decided that we wouldn’t ‘play the game’ and have never really celebrated holidays other than Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter with much fanfare (or expense). It’s interesting to find out the origin of these holidays–thanks~

    • Willow, I started this post totally prepared to say that commercialism was a new thing. Wikipedia certainly told me otherwise. As you may know, I’ve nevered lived outside the US, and I’m sure things are very different there. Every holiday in the US certainly is associated with a shopping opportunity.

    • Hi Willow,
      I found the same thing when I moved to America and I found it so exciting at the time but by about the forth year I got over it. Now I am just waiting for November and I am going to donate most of my Christmas decorations to charity. I couldn’t get over the fact that Valentines day was celebrated to such a degree in elementary school. That is an adult holiday I thought and one my husband and I have never celebrated simply because it is so commercial.

      • Even St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated like crazy in public schools with leprechauns, tiny footprints painted on walls and ceilings, and green glitter and gold coin chocolate candies scattered and hidden everywhere. Like you, we just don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.

        • Hi Willow,
          I was always amused by the fact the I had neighbours with three car garages and yet their cars were always parked in their driveway or on the street. I amused the garage was full of decorations. 😆

  2. I totally agree. Although I have never lived in the US, I do notice a lot of the Shopping Religion around the holiday. Especially around Valentine’s day, then the stores have all of that screeming, useless red hearted clutter. I think it is a real waste of resources and money. Also, if “Giving clutter” means the same as “I love you”, then the world must be going crazy.

  3. Here in the UK, when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, Halloween was unheard of as something to celebrate. Now, the cheap clutter fills the shops for weeks before and all the children do trick or treat and think it has always been so.
    We also didn’t have Father’s day over here then either, but now we do and it is as commercial as mother’s day, which we have just had here this Sunday.
    I think Royal Wedding paraphanalia will be the next tatt-a-thon.

    • I know! All of the stuff of Sinterklaas (=a typical, ancient holiday on the 5th of December(!)) lie in stores right after summer. All the eastern stuff lies even before carnaval, (which is, originally 40 days after carnaval, you weren’t supposed to eat all of that sugar clutter). Nowdays, a lot of stores choose for the commerce and not for the health and the original charactar of the holiday).

  4. Thanks for this post, Cindy. I am so trying to convince my (grown) children that I don’t want or need anything at all. Just a visit with them or a telephone call will be “a gracious plenty” as we say in the South (USA)! I went back and read the Black Friday post.

    365 Less Things is a “must read” blog for me every day. Thank you to you and Colleen.

    • Thanks very much Meg. That’s lovely encouragement.

    • Hi Meg,
      I would like to extend to you a warm welcome to 365lessthings. Thank you for becoming a loyal follower and it is entirely our pleasure to be of service to you.
      I hope you have success with convincing your family to stop buying you gifts, sometimes it can be a bit of a challenge. I was fortunate with my family that they could see the sense in the idea and ceased immediately when I suggested it.

  5. The girls and I just read a kids’ book about Benjamin Franklin, one the founding fathers of the US. When he lived in France, he was so popular there were all sorts of trinkets sold with his image on them – including spitoons – so wedding junk is probably nothing new either.

  6. Thanks for a well-researched post, Cindy. I think we need to approach the various holidays with the same care and intent of not cluttering our homes and others’ homes as we do at Christmas. One US holiday that has always stumped me with its special sales is Presidents Day. Sales for whom? Certainly not the Presidents whose memory we should be honoring. Any excuse to get people to the stores. A good acronym for the holidays is KISS –Keep It Simply Sale-less.

  7. I would say Commercialism is the new religion – regardless of national holidays.
    People worship tradenames and look for the meaning of life in the latest gadget!

    Personally, we don’t celebrate things like this with any purchased items made specifically for a “holiday” – due to the amount of waste produced and junk introduced into our (or other peoples’) homes.

    We don’t spend money on dead flowers (bunches of flowers are already dead, they just don’t know it yet!) for mother’s day, we don’t buy commercially produced and holiday specific cards (we’ll buy “suitable for anything” cards and send as appropriate).

    We’re not Christian, so we don’t celebrate Christmas, so no expenditure on cards, presents that get broken / lost / given-to-someone-else / sent-to-charity-shops within the first 3 months (though this would change if we have children as I don’t think it’d be fair for them to miss out), and although people think that makes us crazy, it makes our life a little less cluttered (we don’t get any gifts other than from parents who refuse to stop, but are usually things like wine/clothes vouchers that don’t produce waste and are actually useful).

    I do celebrate my own holidays (I’m Pagan), but none of them involves any form of commercialism, though I might go out and plant some seeds, or pick some home-grown fruit… 🙂

    I think the only commercial holiday item I might spend money on is easter eggs… In the week after easter, when the easter eggs are in the sales and you have a chance of picking up some nice cheap, colourful and sturdy mugs with some free chocolate to boot! 🙂

  8. I think I really only noticed American excesses when I studied abroad in England for a year. Yes, they still have holidays, and Christmas is accompanied by lots of spending and shopping, but most other holidays seem minor. Other than Easter eggs, candy is rarely printed with holiday or seasonal wrappers, and stores don’t really sell decorations for specific holidays. From what I saw of the students, a holiday was mostly an excuse to go to the pub and get drunk. 🙂 Probably still a better option than buying useless plastic things that go straight into the closet, and then the landfill.