The U.S. has done a marvelous job at creating "unofficial" holidays in recent years, hyping and marketing them to death in a massive commercial overkill. Exhibit A is Hallowe'en, which used to be a one-day event when kids went out in (mostly) homemade costumes to a few relatives or friends' homes to sweetly say "Trick or Treat." and get one piece of candy, for which they would say "Thank you" and be on their way to their next stop. Within 15-20 minutes they'd be done. That was the town kids, of course. The kids living in the country usually didn't get to participate.
Now, Hallowe'en has become a month-long event (at least). Kids (and their parents) spend weeks trying to find just the right (expensive) costume in the store; there are even special "seasonal" stores set up just to sell the costumes; every TV series seems to have a Hallowe'en episode or two; High School kids are trick-or-treating (usually without a costume); many kids (especially the older ones) don't say "trick or treat" or 'thank you" unless they are prodded; both town and country kids are out - and sometimes in more than one town; adults get their own costumes and party; and all the while, those involved in selling costumes, candy, greeting cards and other Hallowe'en-related items - smile all the way to the bank.
Now I know that Hallowe'en is not an exclusively American event, but we are the ones who have taken it to its current extremes.
And then there's the latest phenomenon - the so-called "Black Friday." This refers to the day after Thanksgiving, when merchants open their stores early and crazed shoppers storm the building to get all the hottest Christmas presents while they're still available. I think it's called Black Friday because the sales on that day allow businesses to go "into the black" rather than being in the "red ink" of a poor financial year. Or something like that.
Each year there are reports of shoppers being trampled by one another, often leading to injuries. This year, a woman shopper in L.A. sprayed pepper spray at fellow shoppers; right here in Siouxland, shoppers broke down the doors at Southern Hills Mall ... and it goes on and on. Black Friday really has become a very dark event for many.
Why? I ask. A few years ago, I experienced my first and last Black Friday shopping experience at a Best Buy store in Virginia. I vividly remember standing in a check-out line for a very long time with my two or three small items ... a line so long that balloons marked the end of the line, so that shoppers knew where to "get in line." It seemed like the balloons were halfway across the store from the check-out counters. All along the way, one could see discarded items which shoppers had decided, upon reflection during their time in line, that they really didn't need or want. Stop the madness, folks!
First of all, Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and joy, celebrating the greatest gift any of us has been given. It's also about being with family and friends. It's not about "who got what" or "who has the biggest toys?" Calm down, relax, and enjoy the season. Teach your kids what Christmas is really about. If they feel they really need some of those toys or clothes or whatever, buy 'em for their birthday, when the price has come down. Or maybe by that time, they will have decided that particular item was "dumb" or "boring" or "stupid."
As far as little kids go, they usually seem to like playing with the box in which the gift came more than they do the actual toy, so just wrap up a nice box in a festive way, and let 'em have at it.