I lose my mind at Christmas. I buy tons of gifts nobody needs. Many of them are made in China as opposed to handmade by Amish woodworkers. Is this environmentally thoughtless and ʺwrong?ʺ Yes. But I'll keep doing it anyway. And here's why.

When I hear about families adopting a minimalist Christmas approach, I feel a little guilty. When I think about my undeniable contribution over the holiday season to mindless American consumerism, I almost hang my head in shame. Almost.

When I think about the smarter ways we could spend our money, I feel like a bad human for a few moments, and when I think about all the junk stuff I've bought that's made in China and sold for ridiculously inflated prices to the benefit of giant, heartless toy companies, well… sometimes I consider a different Christmas approach. But ultimately, I always seem to end up at my old standby of "Buy a bunch of toys nobody needs."

I decided to examine this a bit, and here are a few reasons I think I can't let go of my materialistic Christmas.

  1. Nostalgia.

    OK, so I grew up with a single mom and our family was pretty broke. We always had plenty of food and a decent place to live, but money was certainly tight. Throughout the year, we didn't buy many extra things, certainly not toys or other excess. Every year, beginning about a month before Christmas, my mom would start telling my brother and me that "we really don't have much money this year, kids. It's going to be a small Christmas." And we would gear up for a small Christmas. Mentally I would prepare myself for just a couple of gifts. But somehow, on Christmas morning, I would walk out of my bedroom to find a tree nearly drowning with gifts. They seemed to go on forever. The room seemed filled with packages. Our delight and anticipation and surprise were beyond measure. I loved that feeling, and I want it for my kids. I love giving it to my kids.

  2. Good ol' fun.

    It's fun to buy a bunch of stuff for my kids. Compared to what some people spend on Christmas, we really aren't very impressive. I buy each kid one "big" gift and the rest are small, fun presents. There are always a few practical gifts in there (socks, clothes, etc.). But there are also a lot of frivolous items. I enjoy it. In fact, I love it. I love buying them all the things I refuse to buy them all year long. My husband and I love (OK maybe I love it slightly more than my husband) our marathon shopping trips, the all-night gift wrapping and the all-morning-long gift opening sessions. Which reminds me...

  3. Three-hour gift opening sessions (at a minimum).

    I've heard of some families leaving some gifts unwrapped. Nope. Not us. Every single package is wrapped. I've also heard of families basically having a free-for-all gift opening session. Oh no. We go around in a circle, each person opening one gift at a time, so the person who gave the gift (usually me) can savor the recipient's face. It takes forever, and it's exactly how I like it.

  4. There's a time for excess.

    I also let my kids eat a lot of sugary, horrid foods on Halloween. But throughout the year, we eat pretty well in the house (rarely does candy or ice cream come around) and unless it's a birthday, my kids aren't getting showered in toys or gifts. I'm not the kind of mom to bring home a gift "just because" on a regular basis. We have enough stuff. And we never have that much money. But at Christmas? I buy them toys. I buy them gifts. I buy them lots of things I won't buy them all year long. Why? Because of all the reasons I listed above, and because sometimes it's OK to be unenlightened and ridiculous. Well it is for me, at least.

  5. Tradition.

    At this point, for better or worse, this is the way it's done in our home, and I just can't imagine a Christmas without excess. Sometimes I entertain the idea of spending our Christmas money on a vacation somewhere (although it would have to be somewhere close to stay within our budget), but in the end, I always end up right where I started: a Christmas full of excessive gifts and ridiculous consumption.

And honesty, it's right where I want to be.

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