Re-Thinking the “Hallmark Holidays”

A stack of Christmas stars“Valentine’s Day and iPad. Made for each other.”

This is the subject of an email I got from Apple today. It goes on to say “Love is in the Air. iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display. Two ways to your valentine’s heart.”

If your reaction to this is anything like mine, you’re probably thinking, “Really? Is Apple really trying to make the iPad the next standard Valentine’s Day gift?” Seems pretty extravagant for a “hallmark holiday”.

But perhaps it’s not all that far fetched . After all, it has become customary to expect flowers and chocolates on V-day. Even expensive jewelry is considered a traditional gift. These presents that we’ve come to know as “typical”, for any occasion, became that way because once upon a time they were part of a similar selling strategy.

This got me thinking about all the other associations we make…
Chicken wings on Superbowl Sunday
Chocolate Eggs on Easter
Fireworks and BBQ on 4th of July
… and don’t get even me started on Christmas.

Just walk into your local CVS or Rite Aid and take a stroll down the center aisle. Sure, you roll your eyes when the Valentine chocolates are out on December 26th, but come February 14th, the shelves are clear. We’ve been so bombarded with these marketing strategies that things we at one point scoffed at, we eventually crave to consume.

The older I get and the more cycles of holidays I churn through, the more I start to stop and question my automatic associations and temptations to spend.

A few years back, Halloween fell on a Wednesday. My original thought was, “ugh, bad timing”, but then I had a moment of, “Hold on, I’m an adult (with no money), what am I doing celebrating Halloween anyway?” I decided to spend the night at home watching Hocus Pocus and cooking up some delicious fall squashes. I admittedly had a few twinges of #FOMO (fear of missing out), but those fears were quickly put to rest when I took a look at the numbers.

According to the National Retail Federation, American’s spent an average of $66.54 EACH on Halloween in 2008. If I spend $66 dollars EACH year on EACH random/manufactured holiday, I am wasting an awful lot of money on nothing.

Wait a minute, I just looked up the Valentine’s Day numbers and they are more than DOUBLE that. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American spent $126.03 on V-day 2012!

I’m not saying I don’t appreciate a good gift or party every now and then, or that no holiday deserves a celebration. I’m just suggesting that it might be time to re-examine the way we approach holidays, particularly the consumer holidays, to make sure we’re not acting solely out of habits implemented in us by the makers of big business.

I admittedly have trouble scrapping my holiday spirit all together, so I’ve started looking for alternative, cost-effective ways to partake in the festivities. Online searches for free and low-cost seasonal and holiday themed events always turn up a variety of options. I’m also a fan of celebrating in the kitchen- cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients from the farmer’s market or hosting a themed potluck (I’m thinking a soup party would be most apropos for this winter we’ve been having). Just going outside can be festive- playing in the winter snow, enjoying the blossoms of spring, taking in the rays of summer sunshine, and admiring the richness of the fall leaves.

Staying grounded in the beauty of the physical world, the experiences I can enjoy, and the relationships with the people I care about will always be more important to me than the latest seasonal nonsense being sold in stores anyway.

So, sorry to Apple, but I will not be purchasing an iPad for my significant other this year. While I’m sure that would be one way to his heart, I think I can count on a few others.

How much do you spend on “Hallmark Holidays”? Have you considered the alternatives?


Re-Thinking the “Hallmark Holidays” — 6 Comments

  1. My wife and I don’t really celebrate Valentines Day simply because we see it as a manufactured holiday. I do buy her flowers but it’s always at random times throughout the year and that way they’re not so expensive. Plus she loves the surprise 🙂

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