Is Shopping the New Religion?


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  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.