Ah, it’s that time of year again: the 24-hour Christmas Story marathon, more cookies than you want to eat, a new gym membership because of said cookies, and advertisements everywhere for that perfect holiday gift for that special someone. Really, who gets a shiny new car with a huge ribbon on top? And where do those ribbons come from? The holiday season in the U.S. doesn’t exactly give me that warm fuzzy feeling inside. Maybe it’s because in August, Halloween decorations are put out and by the end of September you can spot Christmas swag.
Do you remember what you got last year for the holidays? How about the year before that? How about 10 years ago? After a few years the sweaters and ties start to add up. And maybe you do remember that Tamagotchi that you got 10 years ago, but when was the last time you played with it? Do I want pretty, shiny, glittery things? Sure. Do I need them? No.
The Black Friday shopping frenzy in the U.S. has reached extreme and ludicrous ends with people sustaining injuries and one person trampled to death at a Wal-Mart in 2008. So maybe we all need to hear the Salvation Army bells ringing to remind us to calm down and remember the non-corporate message of the holiday season.
It turns out that more Americans than I thought feel exactly the same way I do. Recently, the Responsibility Project conducted a poll that found that 81 percent of adults surveyed said they appreciate when someone makes a donation to charity instead of buying and giving a gift. However, despite the economic downturn in recent years, 35 percent of the survey participants admitted to spending more on gifts then their budgets allow. Others, however, are setting group spending limits on gifts with family and friends and 74 percent of people said they would be happy to volunteer their time if others regarded that as a gift.
But before you open your checkbook to any charity, do some research. There are plenty of websites out there, such as charitynavigator.org, that review charities and let you know how much of your donation will be spent on overhead costs. These websites also break down charities into different fields with categories ranging from animals to religion so you can find something that you feel passionately about.
In the charitable spirit of this holiday shopping season, here are a few gift giving ideas that you and your friends won’t be able to re-gift or exchange for another size and color.
Not sure exactly which charity your friend would like to donate to? No worries. Sites like www.charitygiftcertificates.org let you give a gift card that allows the recipient to choose their favorite charity. Be warned, a lot of these websites deal with larger national charities, so if you are more inclined to think locally this site probably isn’t the right fit for you.
Most areas have local food pantries and kitchens, so if you are already broke from holiday shopping, consider donating money a few months after the holidays when donations often begin to run low.
If you want to go global in your donations, there are several student-run groups at Wesleyan that can always use extra funds. Shining Hope for Communities, Brighter Dawns, and the Pakistani Flood Relief are just a few.
So have a cookie, try to enjoy all of the holiday music, and remember Tiny Tim this season.
Tomkiw is a member of the class of 2011 and an Executive Editor of The Argus.