The holiday season is often thought of as a time to enjoy time with friends and family, to celebrate what is important to us, to give thanks for what we have and to give back to others. In this way, the holiday season could be thought of as a celebration of prosperity. As we all know, however, consumerism also plays a large role in our holiday celebrations. It would be worthwhile for us all to rethink what it is we are celebrating, and to rethink what prosperity means to us.
What we think the holidays are, and what they really are, often does not quite match up. On one hand, the holidays are an important tradition, celebrating religious and cultural beliefs and heritage. On the other hand, the consumption that occurs during this time is not a reflection of its history. Besides getting hooked into buying a lot of expensive stuff for others that they may not want and may not need because it is expected, the current conception of the holiday season for many is not what it appears to be from the outside.
It’s the most joyous time of the year, right? Perhaps for the kids, but for many it’s the most stressful time of the year, and yet we persist. Why don’t we change? What’s the cause of the inertia? ‘That’s the way we have always done it’ does not seem an adequate explanation.
The induced stress is not good for people. In the 1960s Thomas H. Holmes, MD (a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of Washington) came up with the then radical idea that stress and illness were correlated.
The result was the Holmes-Rahe scale, which ranked life change events and gave them a numerical value. Life events that caused a great amount of stress are assigned a numerical value between 1 and 100. Participants who accumulated 150 to 299 points over the course of a year were at a moderate risk for illness, and participants who accumulated 300 points or more were at significant risk for illness. Some of the most stress inducing life events includes the death of a spouse or family member, divorce, incarceration… and included on the list are Christmas and vacations.
When we think about the holidays this year, consider the stresses this time of the year causes and consider, also, that it is possible to celebrate holiday traditions without excessive consumption and stress.
We should ask ourselves, what could I personally do in a different way and why?