I met a beautiful Brazilian girl at a bar the other night. In town on vacation, she was originally from a small town in southern Brazil but had moved to a Midwestern state a few years ago for an internship.
Despite being the opposite of her ebullient, sultry native country, she loved her snowy, rural adopted home. She got into the cowboy boots culture and met a nice American boy.
She did, however, find our Christmas traditions a bit of a turn-off.
“People die,” she said to me, her pretty eyes widening with a mixture of amusement and bewildered horror. “They die.”
She was referring to the Black Friday stampedes — commonly through the glass double doors of the big-box Walmarts, Targets and Best Buys that are in almost every American city.
In Brazil, she told me, people usually pick one family member each and gave one simple gift. There is no expectation to receive the dozens of items that the average American child and adolescent begs for and gets — only to throw a tantrum when one thing is left off their list.
I know that I risk generalizations with comments like this, but I think, by and large, I can safely say that Americans buy, spend, give and get at a staggering rate this time of year.
I did some research on how Christmas is celebrated around the world, and it is very interesting. I think only if I visited or lived in other countries during this season could I be truly qualified to make unflattering comparisons to the U.S. — this thread, however, (a few years old, but still relevant) does just that.
It seems to say — and I’ve heard people say as much aloud — that, in general, the decorations are much more elegant, the shopping far less aggressive and overwhelming, in Europe and elsewhere.
Every family celebrates the holiday differently, of course. I can say that, if I did have kids, I hope that I would teach them to not equate celebrations with greed and materialism and to not view objects and things as the physical/monetary manifestation of a parent’s or relative’s love.
Adults can also sometimes quantify their significant other’s love for them in terms of how much money is spent (ie, the more he spends on me, the more he values me). This mindset can cause the other person to feel pressured and obligated to spend beyond their means or to find ‘the perfect gift’, and also guilty if they feel they didn’t spend and give enough.
It’s nice to give a gift that you know someone will truly use and appreciate for years to come. Perhaps you made it yourself or thoughtfully picked it out or sacrificed a couple of paychecks to purchase it. This is different from feeling the need to fulfill long lists of demands for makeup, clothes, video games, electronics, etc., that will set parents back thousands of dollars.
And of course, through the years, the lasting part of every holiday celebration is the experiences; the parties, special outings, traditions, good deeds and good times.
Which brings me back to Brazil. Why can’t we have a truly spectacular holiday, like Carnaval? Dancing, music, drinking, eating, flirting, partying until all hours of the night, for weeks and weeks — now that’s a holiday. I’ll take that over Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s, Halloween, and yes, even Christmas, any day of the year.