My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I really wanted to like this book. I was hoping it was like Freakonomics except anti-christmas consumerism, like the subtitle says, Why you shouldn't buy presents for the Holidays. Freakonomics, Outliers and other popculture economic books are so fun to read. Sadly this reads like a economic text book, not a bestseller. I guess that's the reason you don't hear book groups reading it in November. This book took me a ridiculously long time to read, because it was boring, but I did like the main point of the book.
This quote found in the book by Howard Dayton sums up my views, "Christmas is celebrated today more as a sales frenzy than as the most important birth in history. Unfortunately, Christians are susceptible to this commercial mentality, and too many have compromised the message of giving. Often, we give useless gifts at Christmas, because its expected of us, and we feel guilty if we don't... (101)" I've often wondered how the joy of giving has been interpreted as over-consumption. A few pages later, the Author writes, "But to be clear, my beef is not with the level of spending and consumption at Christmas but rather with the waste this spending generates. Gift giving matches resources poorly with users, producing a meager amount of material satisfaction for the amount of money spent. Its probably wrong to pillage the planet in celebration of Christmas. But if pillage we must, we should at least do it efficiently.(103)" In high school I had a friend who was not from a christian culture, but his mother still set up a Christmas tree. He said on Christmas morning his mother would give his brothers and him each envelopes full of cash. He said it was not as exciting as it sounds. I see the appeal of giving gifts to children, but overall Christmas giving/Christmas consumption has made me sick to think about for at least a half a decade. Whether I found and read this book or not, I've been thinking about giving up Christmas consumption and replacing it with a vacation. Why have we equated celebrating Christmas with filling up landfills? Isn't memories better than full garbage bags a week later. Going on vacation and not giving gifts is not actually socially acceptable as the author points out. For some reason we give gifts to prevent the receiver from being offended, not to increase their satisfaction. Without a gift the implication is they have been forgotten.
I won't spoil the end book with explaining the last chapter. But I'll add one more of my opinions. Trading cash is lame, why would I give you $20 for you to give me $20 back. Gift cards although socially more acceptable are also lame to me. I don't want to give a $20 gift card to associate #2, for associate #3 to give me a $20 gift card back. I will say I love a well thought out gift, but so few gifts even have the potential to be well thought out, for countless reasons. I will definitely have to think about the end of the book. It has great potential, but overall I like a gift that doesn't require action on my part.