5 Days of Holiday Bull$hit

This is the introduction to 5 Days of Holiday Bull$hit: A five-part series on Christmas consumer crap. I’m into it, but not into it enough to cover 12 days of this spending mess. I’m not trying to be a song, thanks.

Unlike most people, I’m drawn to bull$hit. There’s a certain calm I feel knowing someone or something is full of it. It’s not that I feel superior upon recognizing the bull$hit, it’s more of a comfort knowing that perceiving the crap has removed all doubt.


History has proven the prevalence of bull$hit. I should know. I’ve studied (and passed) many a history course over my scholastic career, and most of my A+ essays were padded with copious amounts of the stuff.

I’ve also spent a decade working in office environments where bull$hit is shared freely at coffee stations, across cubicles, and in the boss’s office. This bull$hit may be passed as either corporate gossip or gospel — it doesn’t matter. Office bull$hit by any other name is still bull$hit.

I’m far from the first to delve into and define bull$hit. Others have pondered the craft well before me. The Urban Dictionary, “a website ostensibly created as a resource and a snapshot of the phenomenon known as urban language” defines bull$hit as “when a person is communicating through their ass.” Hey, it’s a start.

Philosopher (yes, philosopher) Harry G. Frankfurt did a number on us in his book On Bullshit, where he explores how bullshit and the related concept of humbug are distinct from lying.

Dr. Frankfurt writes:

“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it.”

That’s kinda sorta a load of bull$hit. Maybe I’m just “communicating through my ass,” but I think we’ve collectively lost the “ability to recognize bull$hit” around the week of December 25th. Our Bull$hit-O-Meters take a particular $hit kicking when the holiday season arrives (starting now in October), and continue flailing well into the New Year.


I’d like to be “confident” and tell you we’re all super smart and can “avoid being taken in by it,” but then I’d be bull$hitting you. Using history as a guide, we mostly revel in the fervor that is a retailer’s holiday bull$hit by buying into the annual spending spree (starting now in October), and we’ll do it all again next year.


So this short series is about holiday bull$hit. I usually take this time of year to write about thrifty gifts in a jar, Christmas decorations, DIY Christmas crackers, and frugally fun gift ideas disguised as ornaments — hello panties! OK, I’ve shared smart shopping tactics and other consumer savvy stuff too. But this year I’m firing back at the crap.

I’m taking aim at the bunk. I’m calling out the seasonal nonsense.

You can help identify the bull$hit too.

Tell me what bugs you most about the holiday consumerism that was Christmas, and I’ll promise to never send you any free crap in the mail.

Since Squawkfox is usually a bull$hit-free zone, this may be your only shot to gripe about how retailers grope your money every December (starting now in October).

I’m going to have some fun. And that’s no bull$hit.


Your two cents:

  1. Karen November 27th, 2013

    I like to shop for my kids for christmas however i do not pay attention to any hoopla I don’t like. My kids ask for strange things example Black olives in a can in their stockings. This year we decided not to bake loads of sweets. We always go sledding or snowshoeing. Presents were more important when they were little now they like anything that has to do with hobbies or interests. If items pertaining to these activities are good deals during the christmas season we buy them otherwise we wait until a deal comes along. We don’t worry about what others are doing. What I do hate is the clean up after the big meal. All those dishes yuk! Suggestion : kids (teenagers and Adult children) give Mom a real present this year ;cook the meal AND do the dishes. Don’t wait for mothers day. Yes you sons too. Have a Happy Christmas!

  2. Marie November 27th, 2013

    When I was young, the Christmas advertising and in-mall muzak didn’t start until December 1. Now, it starts once they take down the “Back To School” displays. What happened to at least waiting until after Halloween?!

  3. Avrex Money November 27th, 2013

    Most people are great around the holidays.

    My gripe is that there are ‘some’ individuals out there, who feel Christmas IS about presents. They “need” to have a gift. Even when the resulting gift is not practical, they feel they must have that gift.

    Christmas Season. A happy time with family/friends.
    Minimalism, yes. Consumerism, no.

  4. Ajka November 28th, 2013

    The language of your posts has been deteriorating steadily. Today, you managed to squeeze in the word bulshitt 24 times (if I include the graphics). It seems to me like a rant about nothing.

    Otherwise, I agree with Debbie Moreau.

  5. Shirley Petkau November 29th, 2013

    I love your topic. We ceased doing the Christmas thing years ago. We have four grown daughters who live either overseas or other U.S. states. Since none of us need “stuff” I suggested that we each contribute to our favorite charity instead. Everyone was very relieved to opt out of the nasty chore of shopping to find the “right gift”. My husband and I also do not exchange gifts. We celebrated the season by going to Las Vegas which was only about a five hour drive. What better way to spend Christmas Day!!

    However, we have a problem this year. We recently immigrated to New Zealand. May have to resort to flying to Auckland to visit their less than impressive casino or just spend the day at the beach. Anything to escape the ridiculous holiday madness.

  6. Natalie November 30th, 2013

    The fact that Black Friday discounts are still extremely profitable for retailers, yet we think we’re getting such great deals! http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304281004579217863262940166

  7. Karen November 30th, 2013

    I have to agree with Ajka regarding the language on the posts. Repeating bull$hit so many times in a sentence doesn’t make the article appear to written by a professional and comes across more as a ranting bitch-fest rather than anything remotely serious.

    To answer your question, the fact that decorations and whatnot appear in the stores in October, right beside all the Halloween decor since that day hasn’t even passed yet, is the only thing that annoys me.

    Individuals that also get annoyed and can’t stand those that actually like the holiday also annoy me. I understand that you don’t like the holiday but realize that not everyone does and respect the fact that some people like this time of year.

  8. tracey December 1st, 2013

    The induced panic of black Friday weekend ; if you don’t buy it now you’ll never get it at a lower price. Mostly on stuff you’d never buy any other time of the year. I try to resist but the pull of the bull is very strong!

  9. Emily December 3rd, 2013

    Thanks everybody, you make me feel better about not liking this insane consumer season. I was thinking, “am I the only one this really bothers? Who’s dumb idea was it to buy all these expensive, freakin’ gifts that no one is gonna remember a month from now?” I also can’t stand the pop artists’ reworking of all the Christmas songs (okay, I like Bob and Doug McKenzie’s 12 Days, and “I Farted on Santa’s Lap” but I don’t listen to them all day).

    We’ve got an old artificial Christmas tree at work that looks pretty good when you turn the bare spot to the wall and cover it with lights. A couple of us made ornaments reflecting the staff who work here (orange pylons, teddy bears in PPE; we even thought of making little “road kills” with tire marks, but that’s takin’ it a bit too far, even for me), including some dollar store trimmings that weren’t really meant as Christmas ornaments, they just sorta work.

    My plan this year: tree, food, the next Hobbit movie, done!

  10. Ajka December 4th, 2013

    Here is a suggestion (though it will not suit everyone). For years, my SO and I donate $100 on behalf of each other to a charity of choice. We both like to donate to animal rescue groups.
    He is a person who has 2 cell phones, 2 tablets, I don’t know how many laptops, etc. He does not care about home decor (I am the opposite). I don’t consider clothing much of a gift and his height and constantly expanding girth make it rather difficult to buy clothes that fit.
    I am very particular when it comes to my preferences and I really don’t want to have to return something he had given me. So the charitable donations on behalf of each other are the perfect solution for us. We both have what we need, so this way we don’t accummulate more clutter and the animals benefit.

  11. Amber S December 4th, 2013

    What makes this time of year so stressful for some is all the bull$hit that gets tied to this holiday. If people focused more on time they can spend rather than money, it would be a much more peaceful time of year. Great post!

  12. Randy C December 4th, 2013

    I haven’t encountered any holiday crap yet. Although it may be too soon to speak since I haven’t done my grocery shopping in a few weeks. I’ll probably have bull$hit stuffed down my throat as soon as I walk through the doors.

  13. Jordan Montana December 4th, 2013

    Holiday bull$hit has been harassing me since September (those Halloween costumes make it out early!). No matter where I go, there it is, in my face, or in my ear (radio). I sound like such a Scruge. Bah humbug! Where’s summer time?!

  14. Joshua R December 4th, 2013

    It’s interesting reading some of these comment that have been left. I agree with Merlin. This holiday has had many many generations of twisting. Great post Kerry, keep up the good work!

  15. Connie December 5th, 2013

    Love the season/ Hate the retail hype! I love it because of opportunities to visit and share wonderful meals and fun with friends and relatives. My kids are grown so I don’t get swept away with the waves of parents trying desperately to find the “IT” toy. (There was a lean year when I was invited to a friends pre Christmas party that had a guest Santa and the hosts asked if we’d like to bring gifts for Santa to give to our children. This was the year that Nano-Pets were all the rage… many of the other children got Nano Pets, my daughter got the entire Little House series and a little necklace… she was not impressed at the time, even though she loved reading…she was sucked in by the gotta haves. She STILL has those books, and the Nano Pet we did get for her a few weeks later bored her within a few weeks and broke with in a month or so……
    The hype and that perennail question “have you got all your shopping done?” are the only things I dislike about the season. The chance to rest,religious celebrations (whatever they be), the get togethers, the after Christmas frugal deals on cards, wrap, decorations etc. (NEVER EVER BOXING DAY!!) are something to look forward to, rather than retail warfare!
    Kerry: I have revisited previous years’ posts to get small gift ideas and will definitely steal some ideas for crafting with kids and filling stockings with fun but frugal loot!

  16. Carrie December 7th, 2013

    Focus on shopping and the unspoken expectation that you will spend every last red cent you have to give presents to people. Don’t get me wrong, I love exchanging gifts! However, I’ve seen people buy enough presents to cover the bottom half of the tree and take up a good 50% of the living room. And then they are “finally caught up from Christmas” in March.

  17. TwoYellowDogs.Terri December 20th, 2013

    Oh, I use to LOVE Christmas time…

    I pretty much agree with all the above comments on the hates.
    1. non-stop christmas music in stores from thanksgiving on. (solution, don’t go to stores).
    2. crowds at the mall. (solution, don’t go; shop on amazon).
    3. TV commercials brainwashing the kids into wanting the crap they sell. (solution, listen to the grand kids, but only buy want I am willing to support educationally and life-skill developing). ALSO, I put put $$ each birthday and xmas into educational fund for each grandchild. They don’t get to open this present until they are ready to go to college! Hopefully by then, they will really appreciate the gift and will not be mentally damaged because I didn’t SHOWER them with STUFF in the form of gifts, gifts, gifts.
    4. “Merry Christmas” being socially unacceptable phrasing. Happy Holidays is the “IN” phrase. What is UP with that? I appreciate and respect other religious worship. I hope that my friends respect how I want to celebrate my religious believes–Merry Christmas! (and I wish my friends the appropriate “phrase” that reflect their beliefs.
    5. loosing the focus of what Christmas is.
    6. the pressure of trying to pull all the family together to e-n-j-o-y each other. (it has turned into frantic gatherings to open presents and not really BE with each other).
    (working on solutions to #5 and 6.)

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