Don’t mind me, I’m just ranting…
How in the world did we get from a questionable but overall supposedly nice tradition like Thanksgiving, to the crazy shopping hell of black Friday, cyber Monday and now a full week of shopping? How did the worst parts of such traditions made their way, even to Europe?
We are fucking doomed!
Humans seem to need to celebrate stuff and have excuses to get drunk and/or buy stuff, on a regular basis.
Don’t believe me? Here is a list
Celebrations that were turned into consumerism nightmares
January: Well, you get the New year hangover and have to take your Christmas decoration down and stuff, so it’s mostly a month to recover. You can thrown a party for Martin Luther King day toward the middle of the month.
February: things get back on! Valentine’s day is one of the biggest spending spree, since now even kids have to celebrate their valentines. You also have Chinese New Year of course, a little mixed with Mardis Gras.
Forget about Ash Wednesday and the 40 days of lent and fasting. That’s not fun.
March wasn’t fun enough because Women’s day isn’t a good enough excuse to get drunk, so let’s all celebrate Saint Patrick’s day! And some puppies!
April starts great with April’s fool and Burrito’s day because, you know, lent is really not fun! Thankfully Easter is just right there! Let’s celebrate again!
May is full of excuses. In Europe we have long weekends to commemorate stuff (religious or not) but who cares when you can actually celebrate Star Wars (May the 4th of course), Cinco de Mayo, teachers and of course Mother’s day! Oh yeah, Memorial Day as well.
June is the month of the Summer solstice but this isn’t enough so Father’s day usually takes place then, with a good mixture of other excuses to buy stuff for best friends day or yoga day.
July and August are months of vacation. You don’t really need any other excuses to party, enjoy life and get drunk but if you need (excuses), you still get Independence day, Ice cream day, Hammock day or you can celebrate the moon landing, your cousin, your aunt or bowling, amongst others.
September is back to school but you still get Labor day and grandparents day! And chocolat day and Guacamole day… Yes of course, September marks the beginning of Oktoberfest, another great reasons to buy new outfits and get drunk!
October is a month of preparation for Halloween! But you get Colombus day, pumpkin day and Back to the Future day before.
November starts on All Saints’ day but who cares! Because Thanksgiving of course! Apparently there is even a Fast Food day, followed closely by a Hiking day. The irony here isn’t lost!
And yes, Black Friday, cyber Monday which extend to a full week of shopping.
Finally, December comes with Christmas and all the preparation required. Sain Nicholas celebration get bigger and bigger every year, in Europe. Throw in more shopping to adhere to the Ugly Sweater day or the cupcake day and you are good!
And New Year! Ahhh. Couldn’t come early enough…
Every single day that could be turned into an excuse to promote stuff and consumption has been. It is quite mind blowing when you think about it. And every one of such celebrations require specific outfits, food, decorations, etc. You can’t use your Easter decorations for Halloween or Christmas, can you? You can’t wear the same outfit you wore the previous year either.
And every year the ‘need’ for additional stuff, bigger stuff and the social pressure we feel to adhere to such requirements is obvious.
The celebrations that have become the most important are the ones that require the most stuff
If you take the example of Easter, it is mind blowing. Easter, a Christian celebration, requires now a mountain of chocolate eggs, plenty of cute decorations, and live bunnies who get dumped after a week. Some will say “but I make such decorations myself with my kids“, while actually plenty will just buy cheap plastic eggs and trinkets, from dollar stores.
As mentionner above, originally, Easter is preceded by Lent, a 40 days period of fasting, prayer and penance. But fasting, prayers and penance do no good to the economy and the wallet of the people who sell you the cheap plastic eggs. So let’s just forget about Lent and focus on the celebration and decoration, by buying plastic crap and cheap chocolat instead, ok?! Good!
Same goes for Christmas. The Advent period was originally a period of fasting and penitence (some would add abstinence!) and the rules were apparently relaxed at the beginning of the 20th century. Surprising and very practical?! Clearly when you look at Advent calendars in store, you can’t get any further from the original meaning of the Advent period than that.
It could still get worst
Despite an already pretty full calendar, things could still get worst. Some celebrations haven’t completely taken off just yet and there are probably room for a couple additional ones.
Think about it, wee used to only have Mother & Father day, but now we have specific dates to celebrate our Grand parents, siblings, cousins and aunts, uncles and best friends. These aren’t as big yet, so there is a potential here for additional stuff to be sold to us. New ‘traditions’ to be created. New spending.
There are quite a few celebrations that were imported (Oktoberfest is German, Saint Patrick is Irish…) and there are probably plenty more that could be. We haven’t tapped into every single cultures, just yet!
We haven’t yet tapped into every single religious either. Sure Christian celebrations have been stripped off their core meaning and transformed into shopping feast, but what about other religious celebrations? Diwali, the Indian New year, could be next! What’s wrong with celebrating New Year several times?!
In addition, since more and more people are turning away from ‘main stream’ religions, there could be a great potential in marketing pagan celebrations for example, into a non pagan way of course because that would be Oh my gosh so shocking! (very ironic here). We already celebrate Halloween big time anyway.
It is about time to stop!
It has all become too ridiculous.
I recently got an email titles: To a very merry Black Friday!
We can do better than this. Surely we can. We must…
We do not have to adhere to every trend, we do not have to buy cheap stuff for every ‘celebrations’ there is, we don’t have to agree to feel pressured into doing so.
It is entirely possible to refuse to buy stuff we do not need.
With such consumption trends, we are building a future that is going to be very difficult. It is just not sustainable, there is no denying it. Some will reply it’s too late, so we might as well enjoy. Most will argue that we could still have a future but we need to act now.
It’s up to you to be part of the problem or the solution.
Yes, I try to be part of the solution
With RTatW, I advocate for slow travel, smart travel. Here, I try to encourage simple living / DIY / veganism / vintage / quality versus quantity…
Indeed I do, what I preach. I’m not perfect but I’ve made incredible progress over the last few years and establish new consumptions habits which are lightyears away, from what they used to be.
To achieve such changes, the one thing that helped me incredibly was to start a budget. I dived deep into all my spendings and this lead to quite a few revelations! My no-buy year challenge was partly a consequence of starting such a budget, and it is this challenge that helped me change.
To change you need to first know where you stand. You need to analyse your situation and have a very clear view on how you spend your money. Before working on the establishment of a budget, I actually had no idea I was spending so much on clothes and stupid stuff. Once I started recording my spending, it became very clear and I was ashamed.
After a while, I had to refine certain categories, to get an even better picture so I could set better goals.
My no-buy year challenge lead to a 21% reduction of my spending.
The refinement in my budget lead to a subsequent 5% reduction of my spending, the next year.
As mentioned previously, at that point, I felt stuck and couldn’t really see how to reduce my spending any further although I’m now working on specific areas.
Oh, yeah, and meanwhile, my income increased by 15-20% each year! So yeah, overall it feels pretty good.
You see, it’s obvious, but the less you spend on stuff, the more you save! And having a confortable safety net in the bank feels really good! Well, it does to me.
However, the goal here isn’t about money. Saving money is just a happy consequence of being a mindful consumer!
Set new goals!
We have to change, we have to do better.
2020 has been, at the very least weird for most, horrible for some, disastrous for others. Why not try to start 2021 with new goals? (I hate that word!) At that point, you probably have very little to lose, to at least try!
This new year is probably the best one ever, to start a no-buy challenge. A lot of us are going to spend it working from home so no need for new outfits! No one is going to judge your Easter decoration since no one is going to see them. No, you don’t need to post on Insta!
Also, no one needs to see your mismatch outfits, table napkins or the state of your living room. Yes, please do take care of yourself in the most genuine and kind way. But don’t worry about what your mother in law would think, she isn’t coming for a visit!
Retail therapy isn’t therapy. It isn’t a requirement. Break free.
Instead focus on yourself, your growth, your health. Take up new classes, learn new things, cherish your skills…
2021 could be the best possible year to take on the challenge to become a better version of ourselves. For ourselves, for our future and for the planet.
Need more pointers? There are quite a few tips here: Meaningful ways to be a better human