Twas the Night Before…

by francine Hardaway on December 21, 2006

Finally. The Christmas parties are (almost) over, and the shopping and shipping are done. I finally have time to contemplate the season, after spending the beginning of it in surgery and the end catching up on whoever I didn’t buy anything for over the summer.  Yes, I often Christmas shop months in advance, and often on my trips.  That way I have that unusual wine-bottle holder from Malta for the special Chardonnay I ordered when I was in Sonoma.

I finessed the Christmas tree decor issues (what color, what theme) this year by making it the Year of the Dog: every ornament is a dog toy.  When Christmas is over, the dog will take the ornaments off the tree and eat them. Nothing to pack up for next year except the artificial tree itself. Ah yes, that artificial tree.  It’s a remnant of my upscale days in Esplanade Place, where everyone has their trees trimmed by a professional so they can stand lighted in the windows without violating the homeowner’s association rules. Only artificial trees, which are regular rather than too thin or too thick, need apply.

Anyway, I spent over a thousand dollars on this tree, which comes with its own pre-strung lights.It folds up into its own little container that sits in a closet all year.  A feat of engineering never equalled by nature. So I will use it for the rest of my life to amortize the cost. I wonder if I can depreciate it as a capital expense. Or maybe I could take it to "My Sister’s Closet" or "Terry’s Consign and Design.

As you can imagine from the tone of this post, I’m hardly into the joy of the season. And here might be the biggest reason why. This morning on CNBC I heard that the average person has spent $895 on Christmas. This is up from $695 ten days ago, so people are beginning to lose their heads here at the final days. The biggest spenders are men who make more than $75,000 a year. Those same people who make $75,000+ a year are also the biggest re-gifters.There have been numerous stories this season on the art, science, and etiquette of re-gifting.  I find that hilarious. To me, this means we all have too much stuff, and don’t need anymore. So we search for that colleague or friend who might have room for our unwanted gift in his or her garage.

For me, this Christmas has been reduced by TV newscasters to a mountain of statistics: black Friday, red Monday, the biggest shopping day, the biggest shipping day, the biggest delivery day.  All these have been tallied and counted ad nauseum. Sweaters, electric trains, and TVs have made comebacks as popular gifts.  But those same TVs are being sold at below cost, to the chagrin of retailers.

And we have a relatively new entry into the gift arena: the gift card. Most of the gift cards I have seen even allow the giver  a space on the card to indicate how much the card is worth — no more trying to hide what you paid for someone’s gift. Instead, proclaim it: To my dear one from Francine –the value of this Home Depot Card is $50.00  And that’s what you are worth to me. All cleanly denominated, all our friends and relations.

Worse yet, half of us won’t even use our gift cards, and the store will pocket the money. Or we will wait too long, and the value of the card will decline.

Yes, Christmas is not even about individual materialism anymore.  It’s about group economics. And perhaps that’s why I don’t have a live tree. It’s a waste to kill a tree for a bunch of numbers.  Merry Macroeconomics!

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