by Helen Xia, CHS Student Writer

I’ve always found it amusing how there is no apparent “Thanksgiving season.” We transition from carved pumpkins and spider webs to Christmas songs and garlands as soon as Halloween ends. In stores, shelves quickly go from bags of trick-or-treating candy to candy canes and gingerbread men. With brands adopting festive packaging and wrapping products in green and red foil, Christmas is linked closely to consumerism.

The materialistic aspect of Christmas never quite dissipates. It begins early—children pen letters to Santa and circle images in magazines for what they want to receive under the tree. Unlike most other occasions, the holiday season never loses its splendor with time. Adults, too, are excited to snag deals on Black Friday and embellish their homes with decorations. It must be something in the air.

Christmas shopping is far from inexpensive! Forbes expects holiday sales to top 957 billion dollars this year, and this incredible total will likely only increase as each year’s spending outdoes the previous year by around 4 percent. Most of this money goes toward gifts, constituting 65 percent of Christmas spending. 20 percent goes toward gift cards and vouchers—perfect presents for those who claim not to want presents. On an individual level, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans spend an average of 997 dollars each Christmas.

Businesses understand well how receptive consumers are to supplementary spending during the holidays. Stores are promoting Christmas shopping earlier and earlier with each passing year, it seems. Companies release seasonal products and offer holiday discounts, all while playing Christmas tunes to encourage gift-giving. (Did you know “Jingle Bells” was originally a Thanksgiving song?)

Interestingly, some claim this commercial tendency diminishes the magnificence of Christmas: What used to be special and short-lived now lasts for two months, and the excessive commercialization of the holiday causes it to feel more like an obligation or a chore, as opposed to a merry tradition.

Although many report feeling stressed about holiday shopping, usually, delivering and accepting presents “[activate] pathways in the brain that release oxytocin, which is a neuropeptide that signals trust, safety, and connection” (American Psychological Association). Not only do gift-receivers feel rewarded, but gift-givers do, too! Perhaps this shared essence of generosity is what’s floating in the air amid these times. Gift-giving has undoubtedly become an integral characteristic of Christmas.

Speaking of presents, it may be challenging to identify what to give a teenager. I am one and still struggle to purchase the perfect gift for my friends. Therefore, this month, I decided to ask peers what they think the best and worst gifts to receive are!

Multiple individuals prioritized the usefulness of their presents. “I guess my worst Christmas present would have to be a bow my dad bought,” somebody answered. “It was a pretty sick bow that had some cool arrows, but where am I going to use a bow? My best Christmas present would have to be [the] viola I have now. [I named it] Charlotte.”

Comparably, a friend explained, “I would say the best is practical things. This year, [I’d like] things for college, clothes, shoes, or electronics. The worst is things I wouldn’t use, like makeup. That’s a tough question, though.”

Another overarching theme within the sample population was how students spotlighted the amount of thought invested in their gifts. “I think the best are sentimental or handmade gifts. I don’t think there are any ‘worst’ gifts, but I would say clothes because that’s more boring.”

This is where I fall when it comes to presents as well. Nothing beats a heartfelt, handwritten card alongside something functional and fun to try, from a gift card for an unfamiliar restaurant to a new perfume.

A few emphasized the surprise element behind the gifts. “The best gift you could receive is a puppy because who doesn’t love puppies? I can’t really think of the worst gift you could get. Maybe something underwhelming like coal, but then again, coal is pretty useful sometimes.”

Some appreciated the versatility of their gifts. “Money would definitely be the best—you could use that for anything,” someone shared. “Pencils would be the worst for me.”

On the flip side, interestingly, several respondents weren’t fond of receiving cash for Christmas. “I think money is more of a birthday gift than a Christmas gift,” somebody remarked. Another commented, “Money is one of the worst gifts I could receive. My mom ends up taking my money.” Similarly, another friend revealed, “I’d say money or a gift card isn’t something I like because it’s not meaningful. [The] best would be jewelry and stuffed animals because you can keep [them] forever and they’re more meaningful.”

There you have it: some input from teenagers like myself about what they prefer receiving as gifts. Evidently, we all like different things, which adds to the thrill and difficulty of gift shopping. Rest assured: As long as the gift was given with love, we will be grateful! The saying “It’s the thought that counts” has never been so true (and has never felt so comforting)!

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