Stress crushes holiday spirit

Colored lights, hot chocolate, gingerbread, the smell of the tree and mistletoe: the long list of all the things that make the holidays great. The family comes home, gathers around the Christmas tree and passes presents around to eager children. Christmas is the time for giving, but how has this pressure for giving affected the holiday spirit?

Now more than ever, Americans are rushing out after Thanksgiving to get the best deals on gifts for Christmas, lining up the day before for Black Friday deals, spending the day surfing the web on Cyber Monday and hustling from store to store to get as much as possible from their children’s Christmas list. Each year, as the weather gets colder and people get snippier and grumpier, the time for giving, buying and breaking the bank comes around, causing stress nationwide for Americans trying to make this Christmas the best one yet.

All this stress comes so easily, and all from the pressure to live up to the expectations given at this time of year. Buy this, don’t forget that, where’s this thing that was asked for and wanted more than anything? For as long as I can remember, I’ve been seeing people trying their hardest to make Christmas full of joy with gifts, gifts and more gifts, but not without sighing over how much was spent or apologizing for what they couldn’t get that year. The higher the expectations are, the more disappointment comes from these expectations.

Christmas used to be mainly about family and friends and the joy they bring you, but ever since the American retail market has realized how much money it can make, it’s been pushing ads for the “best holiday gifts” and “must-have items” that will be sure to please the loved ones in your life, more than being able to share extra time with them. And it’s been working perfectly, because the thoughts are unconscious now, as if there is a switch in the back of our minds that tells us to buy everything in sight.

From choosing a tree together to decorating the house, we can all agree that the activities during the holiday season are meant to be spent with loved ones, but instead of spending more time doing crafts or simply laughing around the fireplace, we’ve turned into a society spending all its waking hours during December trying to think of the best place to buy gifts and get them quickly.

If it were up to me, the present part of Christmas should feel optional. Of course, it is optional, but it hasn’t felt that way for quite a while. The giving part of the holidays should be in much smaller ways, with little gifts of things that bring genuine smiles to people’s faces, instead of expensive presents being the sole focus of everything — a weekend with a friend you haven’t seen in months, a walk with your parents in the cool air because it’s been too long since you’ve had time with them.

The pressure is becoming too high, the expectations are catching up to everyone and the holiday spirit is cringing in disgust. Maybe this year we can tone it down a notch. But until then, I’ll be groaning at the pushing of people in my favorite stores and the angered looks of strangers when I reach for something they had their burning eyes on.