Money Doesn’t Grow on Christmas Trees

The holidays scrape inch by inch closer every year to overtaking Halloween (Christmas’ disturbed younger sister) and subsequently the entire autumnal season. It isn’t about Jesus, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other belief system; it’s about belief in the almighty dollar. Money, money, money. The root of all evil and the root of all Christmas presents. Sometimes money is the best Christmas present, especially if you can’t be bothered to learn anything about your supposed partner or if you know they’ll just be using it for illicit substances.

Whatever you decide, you’ll probably use a debit or credit card for most of the gifts. If you aren’t crushed by the weight of presents, you will be by credit card debt. Buying is so hot right now. Consumer Affairs states that “spending during the holiday shopping period rose 4.9 percent over last year’s numbers, posting the largest increase since 2011.” I wanted to see the trend in action, so I set out to join the masses.

I visit the Mall of New Hampshire, not just for a fluorescent light-induced headache, but to experience the festive season of spending head-on. PR Newswire also reported that “retailers in the Northeast expect to see the strongest year-over-year growth [this year].” We’re in the eye of the storm. My first stop is at Starbucks to satisfy my inner Basic Bitch. Every sip of that creamy Gingerbread latte is a taste towards the end. Lines of pathetic souls. Weary in spirit and body, needing their lactose and caffeine fix. I speak to a middle-aged man waiting. He says he doesn’t drink coffee but is here for a venti-sized whole milk. Disgusting. I quickly shuffle away from the serial killer.

I see the Holiday cups. Fortune Magazine describes the cups thusly: “The first design is green argyle with stars like that atop the Siren's crown in the company logo.” So delicious-sounding it makes me want to buy designer jeans. “The second cup's red-and-white flame pattern is meant to represent the intense flavor of espresso, according to a Starbucks press release.” Move the fuck over Eudora Welty because that imagery is magnificent. “The third, inspired by the styling of Starbucks' coffee bags, has vertical white and red-toned stripes.” The most slimming of the four cups. “The fourth and final design is white featuring red coffee cherries and green leaves, similar to holly.” None of these are outwardly offensive but if you try hard enough I’m sure you could find an aspect of the design to piss you off.

Our ritualized holiday shopping habits typically begin on Black Friday. Issue 32, 2018, from the Journal of Research for Consumers states, “it is the biggest sales day of the Thanksgiving weekend, and more people shop on Black Friday than any other day during Thanksgiving week.” The same issue goes on to say, “some people may enjoy Black Friday shopping due to time spent with their close family members and friends as well as the thrill of bargain hunting.” No longer do we hunt for survival, but for the latest artisanally crafted yet the corporately approved method of storing nick-nacks. We bond by spending money. We measure love through dollars and cents.

I know the perfect gift! I could have purchased this online but I want to feel vintage. Business Insider states that “millennials are demonstrating a heightened inclination toward shopping online, with 60% saying they plan to shop on their computers and 55% planning to shop on a mobile device.” I spot another millennial at the mall, ironically shopping IRL, and they hand me a vape pen as I head toward Newbury Comics to purchase some highly humorous, yet tasteful, swag. The television warns me not to inhale, but the television also shows how cool I am if I do. What a conundrum! I breathe in deep. The world seems hazy as I walk in and ignore the associate asking if I need help. No, thank you. The festive flavors of the latte and vape smoke swirl in my head as I look at the new releases section. I realize counter-culture has been reduced to listening to a musical artist sponsored by Visa and shopping at locally-owned establishments. This is rebelling without offending your parents, disrespecting the military or causing any drop in stock prices. Baby boomers, having lost their fear of God since both parents have died, and after experiencing no wrath from above, treat their siblings like shit, steal inheritances and divorce with a glee that should make you shiver. The kids that previously would kick your ass and take your lunch money now tell you to go vote and to buy a metal straw. It’s only $1. Donations and crowdsourcing for a business-approved environmental revolution.

Vote with your dollar! You should be grateful for a $15 per hour job. You should be grateful for the over 100,000 jobs that UPS is hiring for the holiday season. Don’t go to college, learn a trade. If you see something, definitely say something! Don’t worry about the human condition. Thank them for their service. Rent out your mind to the loudest bidder. Be grateful for bank and insurance commercials that have replaced any supposed moral structure or guidance since the only place families appear to congregate now is around a Smart TV. Brand Names are the new saints. Maybe I should be grateful. Maybe I am and I just don’t know how to express myself. Maybe I’m too narcissistic to appreciate that part-time job with no benefits and which pays me just enough to survive and covers the gas to make it there.

I take a selfie but I don’t post. Chaos and mayhem. That same issue from the Journal of Research for Consumers states that “retailers need to keep in mind that excitement and anticipation evoked by media hype can result in adverse outcomes when managed poorly.” I’m surrounded by caffeinated and farty hyenas crawling over one another for the best deals. I maneuver through the medicated menagerie and into the checkout line. I may not own a home but I am a rewards member. Business Insider states that “95% of millennials say that they're more loyal to stores where they're rewards members.” I give the purple-haired cashier my name, email, zip-code, phone number, social security number, the answer to five unique security questions, a 5-digit pin that I receive via text message, an 8-character coupon code from my email, and after a quick scan of my app my purchase total is reduced by $0.30. Success!

CBS News states that “holiday sales are forecast to climb 5.8 percent to more than $1 trillion, the first time holiday sales have passed the trillion-dollar threshold.” I finally feel that I’m part of a movement. I decline to donate a $1 to their charity even though I feel a slight bit of guilt not allowing them to use that as a tax write-off. This whole scene is endemic of the entire mall. Nothing is sacred and nowhere is safe.

After leaving the store with albums, t-shirts with ironic sayings, and a Rick And Morty version of Monopoly (the perfect gift), I decide to get some food. I realize I’m in line at Starbucks again and contemplate which tasty treat I’ll force one of these beleaguered baristas to make. The Sugar Plum Cheese Danish sounds yummy. Don’t get me wrong, human society has always been about acquiring goods for the ones we love, damn the rest. We’ve been oppressed and been oppressors on various different versions of our collected realities. We persecute the frail because it makes us feel strong. Whatever you believe at this moment in time, Christmas commercials in October are evil, but it may be slightly less evil than being lit on fire and catapulted at a castle by a king for want of a cannon hundred of years ago. But if all of this commercialism gets you down and you can’t realize that peace and happiness reside inside yourself, try to fill that hole with a holiday-inspired pastry. Let them eat Sugarplum Cheese Danishes!