Holiday Practices Reveal Community’s Privilege


Jensen Rasmussen, Staff Writer

Nestled around the Christmas tree with my family, the twinkling of holiday music was always accompanied by delicious food, wrapped gifts, shared stories and laughter. These are my memories of the holiday season, and they are no doubt similar to those of many in this community.

But for some, their recollections of Christmas or Hanukkah overlook an important point: our privilege. The holiday season and its celebrations reveal privilege like no other time, providing a ripe opportunity for reflecting on good fortune.

While many of us in Lamorinda have always had gifts to open on Christmas morning, 1 in 2 Americans are concerned that they won’t be able to afford gifts during the holidays, according to CBS News‘ 2011 poll “How Concerned Are You About Not Being Able To Afford the Gifts You Want To Buy.”

In 2012, The Telegraph article “Pressure to spend at Christmas puts families under too much strain – warns Archbishop” reported that the average family spent around $1,287.72 on Christmas presents that year. For a family struggling to cover even the most basic expenses, the price tag on gifts is too high.

Being able receive and give gifts during the holidays is a huge privilege that is recognized far too infrequently, especially in a wealthy community like ours.

But the holiday season and the privilege that accompanies it entails much more than presents wrapped in glittering paper and curled ribbons under the tree.

In 2017, 107.3 million Americans traveled during the holiday season, according to Reuters in “Record number of Americans to travel during Christmas holiday: AAA.” With the average cost of a vacation for a family of 4 being $4,580, as reported by CreditDonkey, taking a holiday vacation is completely out of the question for the financially strapped.

I’ve heard my peers complaining about pricey vacations that they were “forced” by their parents to attend. But, they aren’t complaining about the high price. They’re criticizing their parents’ decision to go to the Bahamas instead of Bora Bora and grumbling over the 2 weeks they would spend away from their friends on a European cruise.

With 40% of Americans having never left the country, according to Daily Mail, its quite disturbing to hear that some would take such an extravagance for granted, much less complain about it.

Simple seasonal festivities also illustrate the extreme privilege many in our community enjoy.

While families in our community hold traditions of attending festive performances such as The Nutcracker ballet or holiday plays, there are those who are unable to afford such shows. With tickets to these spectacles often being upwards of $100 (orchestra seats to the San Francisco Ballet are $163) this is just another example of the privilege that goes without much consideration.

While the holiday season is a time of joy, it should also be a time to soberly acknowledge the privilege it represents for so many of us.