Other than some online gifts for my aunts, and some end of year charitable donations, I've pretty much wrapped up my Christmas shopping. All that's left is the wrapping. Then, it's a wrap.
I had thought that I still needed something for our Christmas Eve Yankee Swap but, mirabile dictu, I found an item that I had gotten quite a while back and had forgotten about. It's a doozy. I can't wait to see who wins it.
In any case, I don't actually do all that much Christmas giving anymore.
Having wound things down to the "pick a sib or in-law" practice for a while, my sibs and I decided a number of years ago to stop exchanging gifts entirely. For a couple of years after, we did stockings, but that was getting out of control, both monetarily and, more important, in terms of unneeded crap accumulation. There is occasionally some sister gifting, or a bit of small stocking stufferish activity (nothing official). Mostly, we've broken the habit. And it sure takes a lot of the stress out of the holiday season.
By mutual consent, I've stopped exchanging with a couple of friends, as well.
Enough is absolutely enough.
I still get gifts for my nieces, a handful of other friends and family members who genuinely like to exchange gifts, and three aunts (two elderly, one not so). But it's a manageable number.
And once I get online - which I'll probably do on Cyber Monday, just to keep my spending hand in - and order up whatever it is I'm going to send the aunts, I'm done! (Come to think of it, these three aunts would probably all enjoy Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, but no can do. Politically, my mother was the rogue in her family. The other aunt's an in-law who's always kept a Ronny-and-Nancy calendar in her kitchen. Sigh.)
Anyhow, now that I'm (mostly) over an done with, I could read an article in yesterday's Globe by the author of Scroogenomics, with some disinterest.
Joel Waldfogel, a Wharton economist, maintains that the $65 billion that's supposedly going to be spent this holiday shopping season in the US alone represents "an orgy of value destruction." That's economist-ese for 'you're buying something for $50 that may not have $50 worth of value to me'. As he puts it, if you give someone a sweater that they don't end up wearing, "You may as well have lit that sweater on fire."
Which is not quite true. The gift-ee can donate it to charity. Somebody, somewhere in the world will end up wearing it, or it will be ragged and recycled into another sweater that someone else won't like.
Nonetheless, I get the notion of value destruction. I am well past the stage where I'm going to buy any article of clothing for my 12 or 13 year old nieces that has not been specifically vetted by them. I knew that worm had turned about five years years back, when I pointed out a really cute outfit in a catalogue and they both recoiled with horror. What they wanted was not the flowered skirt with the ruffled top, but the glittery pink tee-shirt with unicorns on it.
Waldvogel has conducted surveys, and he has found that people value things they buy for themselves at nearly 20% higher than they do the gifts they receive. He translates this into $12B worth of annual value destruction.
Talk about a Jolly, Holly Christmas.
But when you think about it, history is littered with a lot of gift mistakes - probably since the Three Kings of Orient Are brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Baby Jesus. I'm sure Mary and Joseph were delighted to get that gold, but I'm equally sure they were thinking some Bethlehem version of WTF about that frankincense and myrrh, when they could have used a couple of changes of swaddling clothes, spare milk-sop, or even a donkey stuffed with manger hay.
Waldvogel is not a total humbug. It's okay to buy gifts for those you're close enough to to know what they'd like. And for the kids in your life - who, up to a certain age, are (temporarily) happy with anything. Other than that, he recommends gift cards, or charitable donations, for the brother-in-law who really doesn't need "another golf-themed tchotchke." Been there, bought that. No golf-themed tchotchke heading to Dallas this year. But I didn't need Waldvogel to tell me that my sister- and brother-in-law don't need any more crap. I could see that with my own eyes. Which is why they'll be getting something nice and New England smelling from L.L. Bean.
I've been doing a bit of that charitable giving for the last couple of years - even in the name of kids, which Waldvogel doesn't recommend. But I had been giving small gifts to a lot of kiddies - children and grandchildren of friends and relations - and when I saw how much these kiddoes were accumulating, the word "basta" went off in my brain. (Actually, what went off was BASTA!)
So now the Globe Santa gets a few bucks in the names of H, B, T, C, G, C, J, A, and M-K. And part of the gift for my nieces is a donation made in their name to either the Globe Santa or Heifer International - they get to pick. (Self-serving? Yea, baby! I get the charitable deduction.)
There's so much pressure onus all to shop up a storm. It's almost as if it were our patriotic duty to rev up the economy by shopping 'til we drop into an exhausted heap at midnight on Christmas Eve.
Yet the out of control shopping - for items large (the non-affordable dream house), medium (flat-screen TV), and small (aw, that sock monkey's so cute; take two, they're small) - by so many helped get us into the mess we're in to begin with.
What's a country to do? Especially when the vast majority of people who inhabit it have way too much stuff already.
Anyway, the one bright and shiny spot in Waldvogel's article was this:
...our [the US] per capita holiday spending is far back in the pack, behind Norway, the United Kingdom, Italy, Finland, and France, among others. The United States is 12th among 26 large world economies in holiday spending. The good news is that we’re not the world’s most vulgar commercializers of Christmas.
What a relief.
On Dasher, on Dancer. Just not to the nearest mall.