Some friends were telling me how difficult it is – and almost unnecessary - for them to find holiday gifts for their adolescent and teen-aged children. Why? Because they already have everything they want or need, and if they don’t, they will often buy it themselves.
Consumer goods, electronics, trinkets and toys are no longer tethered to the holidays. It no longer matters if you are naughty or nice.
Younger children however, do not have that economic freedom hence there always will be room for holiday gifts.
What began as a conversation about the frustration over the difficulty of my friends finding the right gifts for their children evolved into the realization of how the meaning of “holiday spirit” is returning to reflect the values of simpler times.
The reasons for all of this range from the way the price of consumer technology has plummeted over the past decade, to the wake up call for retailers that consumers want to see real savings if they are expected to take out cash or a credit card in what has been a very difficult economy. The recession, coupled with convenient and less expensive online commerce also heralded in a new era of consumer power.
This does not mean that retailers are getting shortchanged. Quite the contrary.
Last year, the average American consumer spent $750 on holiday gifts and this year will probably spend even more. I suspect many of this year’s seasonal purchases won’t need wrapping or a greeting card because so many of us are now using the holiday retail season to shop for ourselves.
So the teenagers look after themselves, and though we may still drop hints to friends and family about what we need, chances are, we will buy items from our personal wish lists that we don’t receive. Delayed gratification is no longer required at this time of year. Clothing, gadgets, a smartphone case or gift certificate is always welcome, and few people can resist anything that comes in a big box.
For decades we have lamented about the loss of the holiday spirit because of the commercialization of this time of year. It is still a time to give and receive, but maybe – just maybe – gathering with friends and family will not be the means to the end of unwrapping gifts, but rather, the main goal.
One author said of gifts “This is the season when you buy this year's gifts with next year's money.” Perhaps.
However, I prefer the quote from Pierre Corneille, who wrote “The manner of giving is worth more than the gift,” be it a dinner, a night out or a new set of ear buds to listen to music.
All the best for the holidays to you, your loved ones and family.