You are familiar, I’m sure, with the institution of the gift shop: a business that exists entirely to sell useless treats and temptations, an ode to capitalistic superfluousness. During the weekend before Hanukkah, I found myself in such a place, driven into a state of dissociation by twee mugs and balsam-scented candles. This was how I ended up purchasing a felt pocket of catnip in the shape of a pierogi for my brother’s cat, because the package I was sending to his family in California just felt incomplete without a few extra trinkets.
Normally, I am a woman who is familiar — intellectually, professionally, emotionally — with the many problems brought about by rampant holiday shopping. I know that both the copious buying and receiving of presents often constitutes a source of stress for all parties involved, that shiny wrapping paper and ribbon are a landfill nightmare, that the manufacturing and shipping of billions of goods for a few days’ celebration is both a burden on human workers and the polluted atmosphere. Indeed: the entire contemporary ideal of winter holidays is largely perpetuated by ... Read more