New York is an amazing city and there might be no other city in the world to compare with. However, it is also an example of extreme shopping consumption. People can turn into shopping addicts, especially in the time when it gets colder and Christmas is coming closer. You don’t need this stuff? Come on, it’s 50 % off – of course, you need it.
Everything you’re dreaming of
Amanda, a nine year old girl wearing blue jeans and a green jacket, enters the toy store at Times Square in New York City. It is an evening in December, so it is already dark outside. The store definitely isn’t. Lights and glitter are everywhere Amanda looks. Several chains of lights in every possible colour hang down from the roof.
A big Christmas tree with a golden star on the top stands tall in the middle of the room, full of ornaments and tinsel. The radio in the background is playing „Jingle Bells“. Amanda halts. She isn’t sure where she should go first. Everything is moving, everything is shining and everything is sparkling. She is standing in the middle of the big store and random people with huge shopping bags are bumping into her. It’s Christmas time. It is time to buy some gifts for the kids.
The toy store boasts an astounding 110.000 square feet filled with everything that a child dreams of. People marvel at the several attractions, stand in line for a picture with popular costumed characters such as Spider-Man or take a ride on the 60-foot Ferris wheel. They hear the roar of the life-sized T-Rex dinosaur or make themselves at home in the 4.000 square-foot Barbie dollhouse. Standing in this store is like being involved in a fairy tale. It seems like toys are becoming real in this fantasy world for a moment instead of lying in their boxes.
Amanda is carrying a doll, a stuffed animal, and a computer game in her hand. She would have chosen more if she wouldn’t have just two hands. She wants to have everything. She finds more and more while running through the crowd. Not only for her, but also for many stores, Christmas is the most important time of the year. Many smaller shops even rely on Christmas buying to stay in business or make a profit for the entire year.
Big, bigger, New York
Almost 49 Million visitors came to New York City last year. They left 31 Billion Dollars there. New York City knows how to do the holidays like no other city in the world. Even before the first snowflakes fall, the city transforms into a winter wonderland. Skaters do figures in Central Park, the Rockettes kick up their heels at Radio City Music Hall, and Sugar Plum Fairies drift across the stage at Lincoln Center. Christmas is the season when the city will offer more than usual – more activities, more shows, more shopping.
As soon as Thanksgiving is over and as soon as Black Friday starts, people in New York City mutate into shopping addicts. Here are the most extravagant and world’s biggest stores; here you get all the Christmas gifts you need. Because many shops compete for customers, some offer sales up to 70 percent.
People are getting almost crazy, buying everything, even they already have everything. Standing in this toy store right here, next to the little girl Amanda, I have the impression that Christmas has turned into a consumption holiday. The message now is: shop-til-you-drop!
Indeed, New York is a great city and it’s like this in all the movies I have seen – Christmas Trees, Christmas decorations, chorus, Santa Claus, twinkling lights, candy stands and roasted chestnuts everywhere. I agree that this is magical and unique. But should Christmas really be like this? Is there seriously a man sitting in a Santa Clause costume on the third floor of the store receiving wishes from all the children around him while they already have five packages of new toys in their little hands – and while a second fake Santa Clause is right across the street in front of the next shop?
What’s Christmas about again?
I like gifts! I like making presents even more. I love to think about if my friend Lilly would prefer to read the new book of Stephen King or „The Help“ from Kathryn Stocket and to decide if my mother would be happier to receive the blue or the brown scarf as a present. However, these gifts should still have a meaning and shouldn’t go under in a mass of stuff we don’t need. Shopping in a toy store like this isn’t shopping anymore; it’s a trip into an unreal world.
It is an exciting but crowded place where people just try to grab everything they are able to carry. I’m not sure if Amanda knows the real meaning of Christmas, the traditional way to celebrate it and I hope she won’t be sad on this day just because she won’t get this cool new skateboard she was riding in the store this evening in December. Or maybe she will even be angry with her parents because they bought her the „wrong“ game for her Nintendo Wii.
Christian Nationalists complain about secularists conspiring to transform it from a religious into a secular holiday. They argue that it changed into a celebration of excessive spending and materialistic consumerism. More money is spent on more things during Christmas than at any other time. However, kids like Amanda should learn that Christmas wasn’t built up just to shop a store like this one at Times Square completely empty.
The meaning of Christmas depends upon what people actually do with it. Of course, gifts are a big deal. However, that’s not all. Maybe we should remind ourselves every year why we are celebrating Christmas and enjoy the time of the holidays to do some things for which we don’t have time during the year: Give to the poor instead of to Wal-Mart. Go to church instead of the mall. Taste a waffle at the Christmas market and light a candle with a good friend. Amanda will love it.
(Text: Christina Hubmann)