Bad news for the fat man in the red suit, but Santa is no longer the figurehead of Christmas. Shorten the hem, pull in the waist, and blow out the hair, and you have the new Mrs. Claus, who also goes by Mariah Carey. I’m pretty sure that the only oxygen that Mariah Carey can survive on comes from evergreens coated in ornaments and tinsel. Eggnog is the only drink in her fridge, candy canes the only food in her cupboards. She vacations in Lapland. It is common knowledge that no holiday song has ever or will ever come close to the 1994 mass hit, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Absolutely nothing is better.
As someone who follows the increasingly unpopular opinion that holiday songs should be relegated to only the month of December (call me a Grinch, or just a rational person), I genuinely like Mariah Carey at Christmas time. My mother, my teachers, my boss– everyone likes Mariah Carey at Christmas time. She is a beam of angelic light during the gloomy winter days. Rudolph, Frosty, the Abominable Snowman…they all pale in comparison to the décolletage baring woman lipsyncing in fur lined getup.
But I do wonder about the commercialization of the holiday season that Ms. Carey contributes to. The Telegraph reports Ms. Carey makes almost $500,000 each year only from “All I Want for Christmas is You.” According to the National Retail Federation, the 2016 US holiday season forecast sees a 3.6% increase in retail sales from last year, to $655.8 billion. Online sales will increase 7-10%, to about $117 billion. Technology and innovation is incredible– it’s what makes this time period and the future so exhilarating, and what greatly defines our generation– but it lends itself to the plague of US consumerism. The average American household has more than $7,500 in consumer debt (Relevant Magazine). At under 5% of the world’s population, the US contributes to 60% of worldwide private consumption, according to the Worldwatch Institute. These numbers are staggering, especially considering that many Americans cannot afford to live beyond their means. Hence payment plans like Walmart Layaway, which ameliorate the reality of how much money each family spends during the holiday season by spacing payments throughout the next few months. It is incredibly dangerous that our society espouses that socioeconomic status is displayed through what you wear, what car you have, what your house is like. These materialistic philosophies unfortunately span all classes in the United States, from the top 1% to the most impoverished groups of people.
On a personal level, I struggle with how romanticized all aspects of the holiday season are. Don’t get me wrong, I love a winter break and how especially joyful everyone is, but it seems misguided to ignore the darker side of the holidays. Ms. Carey is also not without her critics. She acts like a diva, seems to constantly need attention, wears elbow-length satin gloves, for crying out loud. But come December, people smile more and make excuses for the annoying faults of others. So what if Mariah Carey exploits Christmas for her own empire? It’s the holidays, after all.
Graphic: Jessica Chang