Holiday Shopping: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I love the holidays!


I am sentimental by nature, and holidays have always been important to me. Like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, I sometimes set standards for holiday excellence that cannot be met. Even if I am disappointed, however, I still eagerly look forward to the next occasion to celebrate.

Like many other folks, Christmas is my favorite holiday. Christmas is rife with traditions, and I love them all. Driving through neighborhoods looking at homes decorated with Christmas lights thrills me. I eagerly check my mailbox each day for Christmas cards from friends and relatives. A Christmas wreath adorns my front door, and a beautiful if modest tree stands proudly in the living room. Mistletoe hangs from the ceiling in silent witness to lovers’ kisses. Although I never serve a holiday meal, I have been known on occasion to randomly offer unsuspecting friends a Christmas goose. Actually, I’m kidding….really.

Christmas shopping as a tradition is a really mixed bag. The nature of Christmas in America makes holiday shopping something that can’t be ignored. I enjoy finding gifts for family and friends, but sometimes it is frustrating. It is the only part of the holiday season that can be simultaneously enjoyable and infuriating. In the spirit of Christmas, I will describe the good, the bad and the ugly of holiday shopping.


The spirit of the giving

Christmas shopping is a holiday tradition I enjoy
Christmas shopping is a holiday tradition I enjoy
Like Clark Griswold, sometimes my expectations are too high
Like Clark Griswold, sometimes my expectations are too high
There is a joy in selecting the right gift for someone special
There is a joy in selecting the right gift for someone special
It is a wonderful feeling to make Christmas special for children
It is a wonderful feeling to make Christmas special for children
When we wait too long to shop, the shelves may be empty and we might feel stress
When we wait too long to shop, the shelves may be empty and we might feel stress
Black Friday shopping: getting to that perfect gift before someone else can?
Black Friday shopping: getting to that perfect gift before someone else can?
The true spirit of the holidays transcends gifts
The true spirit of the holidays transcends gifts

Holiday shopping: the good, the bad and the ugly


What I like about shopping

I enjoy holiday shopping very much, despite my earlier assertion that it frustrates me. It isn’t something I dread or avoid, because sometimes it can be very rewarding. The moments that make holiday shopping especially gratifying include:

1. Spending quality time with friends and relatives. Shopping can be a wonderful social occasion. It is an opportunity to spend time with loved ones in a relaxed setting. It can also be beneficial to have a second opinion available while searching for the perfect gift, especially if the intended recipient is difficult to shop for.

2. The feeling you get when you find exactly the right gift for someone. There is a real joy in finding that perfect gift for someone, especially when it is a surprise. Selecting an item from a wish list can certainly yield the ideal Christmas present, but it lacks the charm and creativity of finding something special on your own. A look of delight when your purchase is opened makes everything worthwhile.

3. Giving gifts for the right reasons. Gifts can be an expression of love and respect; it can make those less fortunate than we are forget their burdens; it can make a child’s Christmas magical. This is the true joy of giving and what makes the holiday season special. It is what I really love about gift-giving.


What I dislike about shopping

Shopping doesn’t always generate warm fuzzy feelings—sometimes it can be aggravating or even a burden. These are the moments that test us. When we endure them with grace and dignity, we salvage a bad moment and maintain the holiday spirit. Such moments include:

1. When shopping becomes pressure-filled. Christmas comes quickly, and when we postpone shopping or don’t know what to buy, our joyous spirit succumbs to stress and anxiety. Shopping takes on an element of panic when store shelves are empty and we don’t know what to buy. Sales associates are weary from a long holiday season and are sometimes less than helpful. Our creativity takes flight and we feel helpless.

2. When someone else bought the same gift or the recipient already has it. There is an indescribable feeling of disappointment that comes with seeing someone open a gift you also bought for them. A lack of communication with fellow shoppers can sometimes result in a duplicate gift, and it is an awkward situation that forces someone back to the stores to remedy. A replacement gift never seems as special—it feels like a game-show consolation prize.

3. When it isn’t exactly what the recipient hoped or expected it to be. It really is the thought that counts, but sometimes a gift can be disappointing. A loved one might be eager for a very specific gift that we can’t quite pull off. Perhaps we didn’t have enough money, or we couldn’t find it in the stores. When that happens, we hope a similar gift will suffice but sometimes it doesn’t. We know it immediately when the gift is a disappointment to the recipient.


What is ugly about shopping

Shopping can become something dreadful when the spirit of giving is lost. When this happens, the holiday can become dark and even something to avoid. Indications that shopping has turned ugly are:

1. Competing with relatives for that perfect gift to buy. It can become ugly and personal when two people want to buy the same gift for someone. A Black Friday race to the stores to pick up that perfect gift for Mom and Dad before your brother or sister can get there turns shopping into a tawdry affair.

2. Comparing gifts given with gifts received. Sometimes it feels as if we give more than we get. There are often valid reasons for this, of course—not everyone has the same resources for giving. When we feel slighted by someone, however, it is a difficult feeling to overcome and can add a dissonant chord to subsequent holiday gatherings.

3. Using gifts as weapons. When a gift is presented to hurt someone’s feelings or make another person look bad, the spirit of giving is lost. Gifts offered with ill intent can ruin an occasion and sour relationships. It is mean and hurtful to use gifts in this way.


The meaning of Christmas?


The spirit of Christmas takes many forms. As Charlie Brown learned from Linus in the classic Peanuts cartoon, Christmas isn’t about giving or receiving presents—it is rather a spiritual and sometimes religious celebration. It is a time for love and family. I will still give a gift or two in celebration, however. In fact, this Christmas someone very special will open a gift I hope will be much appreciated and enjoyed. I will not see them open or use this gift, and they will never know it came from me. My anonymous offering is intended to brighten someone’s holiday season with no other motive involved. I will truly be a “Secret Santa,” and it will be gratifying to know that I did my part to make Christmas memorable for someone very deserving.

I wish you all a joyous and memorable Christmas. Happy holidays, everyone.



2012 Update


Labor Day just ended, and with the end of summer will come early reminders that the holiday season is approaching. No longer content to wait until Thanksgiving or even Halloween to trot out Christmas merchandise, soon we will once again be bombarded by sales pitches disguised as advice about the true meaning of Christmas. When this occurs, I will return to this article to remind myself what the holidays mean to me, and what I get out of it when holiday preparations proceed smoothly. Because I love the holidays so much, it is easy to get lost in the holiday hype. I can be persuaded to overbuy or spend money on the wrong things. Sometimes I don't always get it right, and the things I dislike about the holidays overshadow the good. Some years are simply better than others.

I am hoping this will be a wonderful holiday season. Happy shopping.


Comments 30 comments

saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 5 years ago

Mike over the years I have planned my strategy very carefully when it came to Christmas shopping and it has always paid off. Buy throughout the year, look for great sales, wrap them and hide them till Christmas morning.

When all else fails be one of the single Dad's haunting the empty malls on Christmas Eve. I have always found deals at the eleventh hour as well.

I hate shopping at the best of times, can't stand line ups, shoulder to shoulder people, people stalling at the cash out because they want to turn in their million coupons they pull out of their purse:0)

All in all, one can escape the madness of shopping if planned before hand to avoid what you rightly so called the good, bad and the ugly. Merry Christmas to you Mike, it was my pleasure getting to know you on the hubs this year.

Have a blessed Festive Holiday with your loved ones and may the New Year 2011 bring you abundant health, happiness and prosperity. Peace my friend.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Enjoyed reading your hub. Merry Christmas.


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Your hub was right on, Mike. This year for me is very different. I had to scale it way, way down. Layoffs can do that. When I was riding high, and making a very good salary, I found favorite stores via the internet. I had very good experiences with gifts that were very unique, and expensive, but I cruised my favorites early and did very well by buying on sale often saving slightly over half the cost or even better at just the right time. Those that know my new circumstances, understand, and those that don't won't be on my future list. Win-win. I enjoyed your take on Christmas shopping. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Mike.


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

I love Charlie Brown. Merry Christmas!

Polly


Foodstuff profile image

Foodstuff 5 years ago from Australia

Good post, Mike. I've basically stopped buying things as presents unless I know they particularly want something. Instead I bake edible gifts and friends appreciate it even more: it's giving a part of yourself and much more personal.

Hope you had a lovely Christmas! Happy 2011!


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Mike - You are so right about the good, the bad and the ugly of Christmas shopping. But someone's gotta do it. I resolve every year to start shopping earlier and sometimes I manage to buy a couple of things earlier in the year. But most of the time, I am one of those frenzied shoppers looking for a good deal on something I haven't yet found.

Happy holidays to your and yours. :)


SUSIE DUZY profile image

SUSIE DUZY 5 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

I enjoyed reading your hub and agree that are many phases of christmas. I made mine better by only shopping online.


coffeesnob 5 years ago

I really enjoy the outdoor malls, especially if it snows just a bit, and not oo cold. I like the cobblestone or brick streets that boiast street cars for transport. And the music that plays everywhere you walk and the overall wonderful atmosphere it presents. God bless you Mike!!


TheToddMan profile image

TheToddMan 5 years ago from Wichita, KS

Another great hub Mike!

A lot of buying gifts off of lists in my house this year. Takes a great deal of the fun out of Christmas shopping. We will do things different in 2011.


J Sunhawk profile image

J Sunhawk 5 years ago from South Carolina

Your enthusiasm for your subject is infectious, and I've decided to start my Christmas shopping for next year this week.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Saddlerider, thanks for stopping by. Christmas shopping has always inspired conflicting emotions in me. I like being around the people busily shopping, but the lines, rude shoppers and clerks, and mad races for parking spaces annoys me. I love finding that perfect gift, but I hate wandering aimlessly. I have been known to prowl at the last minute, and I have also approached shopping with dedication and finished early. It all went pretty well for me this year, and I hope you had a great holiday season, also.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Susan, I hope you had a great Christmas also, and that 2011 will be a great year for you! Thanks for reading.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Amy, thanks for stopping by. My circumstances forced Christmas to be a bit scaled back as well, but like you I looked around for the right opportunities and moments to buy and did just fine. I hope your Christmas was a great one. Take care.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hi, Polly. Of all the holiday cartoons, Charlie Brown is still my favorite. I hope your Christmas was a good one. Take care.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Foodstuff, thanks for your comments. It certainly is true that hand-made gifts can be special. I have given artwork as gifts, and a friend of mine who is good with both knitting and crafts made most of the gifts she presented. Those are the gifts that are memorable. While I still enjoy the shopping experience, I commend you for putting in the time and effort to create your gifts. I'm certain they are greatly appreciated.

Thanks again.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Drbj, thanks for your comments. I hate waiting till the last minute to shop, but I confess that sometimes events overtake me and my resolve to hit the stores early falls by the wayside. This year weirdly represented both extremes--I bought a gift or two early, and I was still shopping a few days before Christmas. We do what we gotta do, I guess. I hope your holiday was a great one.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Susie, thanks for reading. Shopping online has certainly added an element of convenience to the search for gifts, and I have embraced it a bit more than I used to. I still enjoy prowling around the shops, for better or worse. I hope you had a great holiday.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

CS, thanks for stopping by. I am in complete agreement with you--the shops, the music, the chill in the air--it all adds up to a wonderful experience. When it ends with seeing the joy in someone's face when you found something they like, well--it doesn't get any better.

I hope your Christmas was a wonderful one.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Toddman, thanks for reading. We do quite a bit of list-buying also, but I have been known to deviate from it in search of something more inspired. When you find that inspired gift to give, it is really fun. I agree with you--give up the lists next year--it will be more enjoyable. Take care.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

J Sunhawk, thanks for reading. If you begin shopping for next year this week, you will certainly have time to find just the right gift. I will confess that I've bought gifts early enough that I forgot that I purchased them. On one strange Christmas Eve, I remember buying a gift but couldn't remember where I put it. I spent a good part of the night hunting around the house for it.......

I hope your shopping experiences are all good ones.

Mike


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

I almost hate to say it, but I am relieved that Christmas is over. Actually, shopping for my kids is among one of the "easiest" parts. Its all the traveling, cooking, card addressing, and parties that exhausts me. Yet, now is a great time to hit the malls without pressure and with really slashed prices. Happy Holidays and a great New Year to you!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Steph, thanks for stopping by. I agree that the other aspects of the holidays you mention can certainly be taxing, and I'm usually ready for the holidays to end by the time New Year's Eve has come and gone. I do enjoy the holiday season, however, and I took the time to watch a few extra Christmas shows this year.

Happy holidays to you, as well! Take care.

Mike


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

Christmas shopping is torture, it's so hard to find the right thing even though we've had twelve months to think about it. It's good to have a forced rest though and here in Oz it is our main holiday period and starting to get seriously hot. Cheers Mike and have a great new year.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Attemptedhumour, thanks for stopping by. Shopping is very difficult for some folks, and I have certainly enjoyed some years more than others. I so enjoy the holiday season, however, that I approach each Christmas with optimism. I hope yours turned out to be a good one.

Mike


msorensson profile image

msorensson 5 years ago

I just left a comment on Green Lotus' article on gift giving, Mike.

I stopped the Christmas celebration a long time ago, when I decided I will not put up a Christmas tree anymore, no matter how much I love the smell of Christmas tree inside the home. I did not want my son to associate Holidays with shopping and gift giving. A gift can be given with no reason, no season.

Also, I always remember watching one show on Oprah and she said one of her relatives called her to tell her his/her Mercedes is three or five years old and he/she needs a new one. It made me laugh, but she was not joking.

I was thinking of those two words today, rituals and tradition. One has to be steeped in tradition and be knowledgeable about rituals in order to watch them from afar.

I accept and honor the rituals and traditions that people still practice for now I am able to appreciate them better.

Happy New Year Mike.


lovelypaper profile image

lovelypaper 5 years ago from Virginia

I used to love Christmas very much in earlier years, but unfortunately the whole commercialism and Christ being slowly left out of Christmas, it just isn't the same but I still decorate and celebrate but now, it's more personal between Jesus and me because I want to thank Him and appreciate what He did for us.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Msorensson, thanks for reading. I agree that holidays can be celebrated for the wrong reasons, and I always try to maintain the proper perspective this time of year. I always try to make certain children understand that it isn't the season for "getting." Usually my family does a good job of understanding what the holiday season is for. I understand your perspective and admire your determination to ensure the holidays represent what they are supposed to. I hope your own was grand, and that you enjoy a great 2011.

Mike


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Lovelypaper, thanks for reading. I am happy to see you visiting my hubs again. The holiday season is a time for thanks and renewal, and it is always unfortunate when this is lost. The meaning of Christmas should never be mistaken--even though it very often is. I hope your holiday was a good one. Thanks for again for stopping by, I have missed your comments.

Mike


LensMan999 profile image

LensMan999 5 years ago from Trans-Neptunian region

Nice suggestion from you for Christmas holidays. Write this types of hubs as much as you can so we can suggestions.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

LensMan, thanks for reading. I hope you will feel free to check out other articles I have written. Take care.

Mike

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