In a recent ad on Australian television, a 1950s-inspired woman dashes around a Target store, in what can only be described as a frenzied fashion, buying up items for Christmas gifts.
She is seen literally running through the store, bolting in one direction then the next, in a frenetic pursuit of items to purchase.
In other ads, she is seen stuffing her car literally to the roof (the boot/trunk is already full) of toys, so that only her eyes and eyebrows (and part of that Victory-roll hairdo) can be seen as she drives out of the store car park.
And in another scene, she is surrounded by boxes and boxes of items, in the midst of which she corrects the stores tagline (of get more-pay less) with “Give more – pay less”.
Watching these ads gives me a headache, and a heartache. To see this highly energetic woman, glammed up to the nines, in such a feverish buying frenzy, is sad. This woman, an actress I am guessing (whose name I tried to find out, but could only get as far as Rondelle) is more than high energy – she’s agitated.
She seems a step away from out of control.
The sheer volume of the items she is purchasing, all in the name of Christmas giving, also sends a message that it’s about the quantity. In one scene, her arm is stacked with watches of different colours, visually describing that we need multiples of everything (including utility items like a watch, where one almost always does the job).
Every second of these advertisements screams BUY BUY BUY. That you don’t have enough – you must literally stuff your cart, your car, your life with more stuff if you are to be truly in touch with the Christmas season.
But it’s the tagline that renders the entire campaign such a travesty – “give more, pay less”. Suggesting that if we are to truly be generous this silly season, then it is only in the form of items wrapped in a red box with a ludicrously big bow that this generosity can be communicated.
Well crackers to all that I say. I say NO to frenetic women in gorgeous red heels dashing madly around the store in an agitated buying frenzy.
I say NO to stuffing my life and my heart and my head and my home with more stuff, just because it’s Christmas.
I say NO to paying less (or anything, really) for the questionable privilege of giving more stuff to people who probably don’t want it, don’t need it, and won’t use it.
In response to this fevered buying, here’s my 3 tips for truly generous holiday connection this year, whether yours involves seafood, sand and sunshine, or crackling fires and crunchy snow.
3 Tips for Generous and Genuine Holiday Connection
- Talk to your family about what you want your holidays to be like together this year. What is your time together really about? How do you want it to be? Zip forward in your mind to when you’re saying your good-byes and picture how the time together was spent, how did it feel, what did you do? And what can you do now to create that exact experience when the time comes? Do you even want to exchange gifts? Get really clear on the feelings and experiences you want to create, and actually ask those you are spending the holidays with about their thoughts – don’t assume you know what they want, or assume they won’t want to discuss this. They may be as sick at heart of the buying hype as you are.
- Consider creating an experience together that will bring out your collective creativity and feelings of goodwill. Maybe you want to collaborate on creating a beautiful meal, one based on the inspiration of celebrity chefs like Martha Stewart, Nigella Lawson or Donna Hay (you know, the ones who conjure up holiday feast specials that involve gingerbread houses made from scratch). Instead of having your time together based on things, make it about experiences. What can you DO together?
- Avoid spending time in shopping environments as much as possible. Not only are malls more crowded than usual this time of year, stretching your patience and energy even thinner, but it’s a soul depleting environment to be in – for you and those you take shopping with you. I can’t think of a single redeeming feature of being in a shopping environment this time of year, except for the purchasing of necessities, like groceries. I literally feel diminished after I leave a shopping environment between about December 6 and January 10. I feel smaller, reduced in some way. Why would you deliberately put yourself in such an environment? You have a choice – so don’t do it to yourself, or to those you normally take with you shopping.
I wish you a wonderfully connected holiday season full of true connection and goodwill. Something I guarantee you does not exist or can be found and purchased within the mall.