Bah, Humbug!

What comes to mind when you think about Christmas? For me, I think of family, friends, Santa,  presents, turkey dinners, and candycanes… all of which are arguably very pleasant and happy images. I am very confident in my assumption that most people view Christmas in a positive light; it is a holiday that is special for people of all ages. However, I did find someone who is very critical of the Christmas holiday. His name is Joel Waldfogel and he is the author of Scroogenomics, a book on “why you shouldn’t buy presents for the holiday.”

Waldfogel looks at Christmas from a much different perspective than I do. He views it as an extremely wasteful holiday and, if you think about it, he is kind of right. During the holidays everyone goes out and purchases gifts for their loved ones. These purchases are primarily based upon assumptions about what their friends and family want for Christmas. “As a result, the massive holiday spending has the potential to do a terrible job matching products with end users” (page4). It reminds me of this past Christmas when I was shopping for my mother. She is difficult to shop for because everytime I ask her what she wants for Christmas her answer is for me to clean my room. Obviously the clean room request will never happen, so I purchased her a nice sweater. My mom is a sweet lady so she acted very excited when she opened my gift, but I have never seen her wear the sweater…not once. This is a common occurrence during the Christmas holiday, many gifts are stuffed under the bed or put in the back of the closet. I can only imagine how many wasteful gifts are purchased during this time of the year!

Waldfogel’s book addresses how much waste is actually generated by the Christmas holiday in Christian cultures. He also offers suggestions on how we can make strides to reduce this waste in the future. I read a few reviews on the book and it is seemingly very well received by its audience. The book is fascinating to people because it presents a very unique, yet informative viewpoint on a holiday that most of us have never stopped to actually analyze before.

So although I do not plan on ending my friendship with Santa Claus anytime soon, I am encouraged to read this book to learn how I can more efficeintly use the money I spent on my mom’s sweater.


7 Responses

  1. Very interesting. Your summary of the book makes me question how the downfalls of the present-giving associated with the holiday can be better addressed. People always say “it is the thought that matters,” which I agree with, but ideally individuals will be able to show that they are thinking about their friends and family, as well as give them something that they like. I know that when it is time for me to come up with gifts, I always struggle. It can often times be hard to even come up with great gifts for my family and best friends, the people that I know best. Your post has gotten me thinking about ways to rectify this issue and whether acting like you enjoy a gift when you really do not is a good idea. In reality, I will likely continue to do so as I do appreciate the thoughtfulness, but in theory I am not so sure that it is the best approach.

    • If it is the thought that matters, why don’t we give thoughts?

  2. At first, when I was reading the post, I thought the name implied an analysis of the actual economics of Christmas. The season creates countless seasonal jobs and spurs the economy just in time for EOY accounting. This would be another interesting view to look at when thinking about the impact of the season…

  3. santa is Santa.

  4. AWESOME title.

    Me as Scrooge (picture).

    What does the author think we should do? Buy less? Or more efficiently match? Isn’t Santa’s list a cultural attempt to minimize inefficiency in gift-giving.

    My mother in law gave me the best birthday present ever last year. A huge basket full of cloth wraps and ties of all shapes and sizes and colors. WHy? SO I can do all my Channuh-amas wrapping without using paper. Made me much less humbug-y.

  5. […] Bah, Humbug! […]

  6. I do not think that author is necessarily contending that we should buy less. I think he wants us to use this money to either, 1.) more efficiently match (perhaps use the Santa wish list technique) or, 2.) use the money we would normally spend on gifts and put it towards a greater cause (charities, fundraisers, etc..)

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