Holidays Of Conspicuous Consumption

I write on New Year’s Eve with less than 48 hours remaining in the holiday season. Thank all the gods on heaven and earth.

As my 11 regular readers know, I am not a great fan of that stretch of the year that runs from Thanksgiving through the New Year’s Day festival of football games: Roses and Oranges, Cotton and Sugar, which capped the Autozone, the Heart of Dallas and an endless number of other poorly attended footbowls.

For the Boylan family, the holiday season doesn’t end at midnight on the first day of the new year. No such luck. A wedding anniversary and two birthdays stretch the festivities into mid-February.

What’s wrong with this season of joy, peace, hope and celebration?

Where to start? How about with calories? There are too many of them: mounds of mashed potatoes and rice; buckets of gravy; platters of turkeys, hams and roasts. And the desserts, oh the desserts: pumpkin, apple, and banana crème pies. And how about eating them ala mode?

Wash it all down with booze to taste. Beer? Wine? Something harder, perhaps?

By New Year’s Eve, midriffs have grown across the nation, from Washington to Waimea, from Kankakee to Kau. Dress sizes have increased. Everyone feels the bloated belly blahs.

“Please, dear, don’t let me eat too much at the Christmas party.”

“Of course not. We’ll just have light pupus, a drink or two, then leave.”

Sure. Sure. Nobody leaves, except to attend another Christmas party where more pupus, more drinks and the main course will be consumed.

Ah, there’s that word: “consumed.” Consumption is what it’s all about. Throughout the long holiday season, every television newscast leads with a report on retail sales. The day after Thanksgiving “will see the year’s biggest volume of sales of the year,” says the voice over of hordes rushing through the front doors of a big box discount store or wherever, whatever is sold.

A week later, “Retailers are counting on this final weekend before Christmas to boost sagging holiday sales,” a voice intones over a lone shopper emerging from an emporium with only one lonely item under his arm. Oh, horrors! Oh, economic catastrophe!

Never mind that the country still suffers from the weakest economic recovery in our nation’s history. Never mind that the gap between rich and poor yawns wider in this country than at any time since the onset of the Great Depression.

Never mind. Just get out there and spend: on little Jeffrey and sister Jane; on poor, lonely Uncle Al; and don’t forget Grandpa and Grandma … and a little something for your coworkers, every one of them.

No matter, just buy, buy, buy.

Advertisers understand the difference between rich and poor, between the haves and the have-nots, between “a little something” and a lot of something.

Consider perhaps the most offensive television ad of the holiday season. You know the one. A guy spies a spanking new luxury car on the street. He can’t take his eyes off it. He approaches a Santa and elf watching over a charity kettle and drops the keys to his luxury car into it. He’s getting that new one.

A fancy-looking woman does the same, dropping the keys to her car into the growing pile of keys in the kettle. She’s getting a new, more luxurious car as well.

A $45,000 car here, a $45,000 car there.

Caloric overkill and conspicuous consumption, that’s an American Christmas.