But we're about to come upon our culture's greatest celebrations of gluttony: Thanksgiving and Christmas. So I thought I'd do some nerdy linguaphile investigating, and I looked up the definition of the verb "to consume".
con⋅sume /kənˈsum/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [kuhn-soom] verb, -sumed, -sum⋅ing.
–verb (used with object)
1. to destroy or expend by use; use up.
2. to eat or drink up; devour.
3. to destroy, as by decomposition or burning: Fire consumed the forest.
4. to spend (money, time, etc.) wastefully.
5. to absorb; engross: consumed with curiosity.
–verb (used without object)
6. to undergo destruction; waste away.
7. to use or use up consumer goods.
Notice that only the final definition, number 7, takes on our current-day economic meaning. It's also the only definition that is not negative (although I would argue that it very much is a negative definition).
And this is what most economists, companies, and corporations think of us - a market of consumers. A group of destroyers. In terms of the holidays, it makes me wonder: What are we really celebrating?
People always say the holidays are about family and the people you love. But isn't it more about eating too much, spending too much, and getting too much?
As I've wondered how the answer to that question translates practically, I've found a lot of people are trying to figure it out, too:
- Buy Nothing Day. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the crazy folks at Abusters are asking consumers to stop being consumers for a day and simply buy nothing. So instead of rushing to the mall to get those sparkling day-after-Thanksgiving sales, why not enjoy your day off, enjoy some leftovers, and actually spend time with your family (not shopping). Or you can protest in a Santa suit outside the mall.
- The Advent Conspiracy. This brilliant idea came from the minds of a several churches who were tired of Christmas. Seriously. They were tired of it, tired from it. Then they started asking why it wasn't about Jesus anymore. So they came up with the Advent Conspiracy to get the church back to the meaning of Christmas and celebrate in more holistic ways.
There's a lot of alternatives. You just have to be creative and think of ideas tailored to each person. You know, put in some thought and effort. It's a bit tougher than buying a gift card, but I think it's more rewarding in the end. And you might just have your most memorable Christmas yet.