December means that the holidays are rolling in, if not here already depending on when you personally start them. It means that traditions associated with those holidays, both good and bad, are starting to take shape. And it means that somebody in the house has likely made a trip to the attic, basement or storage area to unpack the holiday decorations and “things.” For many households, that includes seasonal dinnerware and place settings that are only used at Thanksgiving or Christmas time. Are those fun holiday specialties or trappings of addictive consumerism? Today, we’re going to take a look at both sides of the debate as well as discuss finding a comfort level with wherever you land in your feelings about consumerism and seasonal dinnerware.
Let’s Just Start With Those Commercials About Table Settings
Before we get too far, let’s make sure that we’re all in the same mind space about what we’re discussing. Sit down and close your eyes for a moment and pause to remember the last television commercial that you saw about making the “perfect holiday table setting.” You know the ones, everybody from home goods specialty stores to larger department stores to “the world’s largest online retailer” run them. It’s (usually) a woman getting ready to feed her family for the holidays, and as preparation for this, she creates a table that would be worthy of showing in any magazine. And typically it also includes seasonally specific dinnerware, like plates with turkeys or Christmas scenes on them. Now that you know what we’re talking about, let’s discuss the consumerism versus tradition of this phenomenon.
The Pro: And It’s Actually Coming From a Surprising Place – a Postconsumer
As we’ve frequently said, everybody has their own destination on the Postconsumer journey. We found out while we were brainstorming this article that one of our own Postconsumers content members is passionate about seasonal dinnerware. She has special sets for Easter and Christmas and is saving up money (in a jar no less!) to one day add a specific Thanksgiving set. We could write our own copy about what the sentimental and traditional arguments for seasonal dinnerware are, but we thought instead we’d just put some quotes around her very own words.
“I love my holiday special dinnerware and I’m definitely not apologizing for that! My Easter dinnerware is actually antique and was a wedding gift. We have two sets of Christmas dinnerware. One everyday set from the seventies that was passed down in my family and one expensive set that we just use on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And I’d love to add Thanksgiving to that list someday. What I love about it is the way it gets my family immediately in the holiday mood. Every year kids and adults alike get excited to see the holiday dinnerware come out because they associate with our big family holiday meals. Look, I work at Postconsumers so I understand that ‘stuff’ can’t create feeling. But it can inspire feeling. I know the arguments that it’s just marketers that have made me think that these dishes have meaning. I know that having specific dinnerware for specific holiday seasons is a big clutter mess. I know all of this, but these dishes represent family memories and family togetherness. I truly consider them heirlooms. I know they don’t hold the memories, but they remind us of the memories and they infuse festivity into our holidays. To me, for my personal journey, that’s enough reason to have them.”
The Cons: What She Said!
Our team member up there actually just said all of the cons the same way that we would! It’s very easy to fall into a rut where you start to believe that this seasonal dinnerware is critical to you because it holds all of your family memories and traditions. “Stuff” never actually embodies emotions or traditions. Our team member said it best when she said it “represents” them. The emotional and mental danger is that you’ll lose sight of that and start to think that these plates, bowls and cups truly are essential to your emotional health. They’re not.
The other con is obviously one of feeling adequate as well as use of your finances. Are you less of a person, mother or wife if you don’t have seasonal dinnerware on your table? NO. However, the commercials and marketing surrounding this topic may make you feel that way. The truth is, you don’t need special dishes of any kind to have a great family holiday. So don’t let the consumer media machine convince you that you do and ultimately take money from your pocket and have you spend it on “stuff” in the form of dishes rather than great experiences that you can share with your family. The dishes don’t make the experience, you do.
Where’s the Middle Ground? We Think Our Team Member Said It Best!
As with most things, we think that you’re fine as long as you’re the one in control of deciding how much stuff is enough for today. If you love seasonal dinnerware and you’re buying with conscious and ethical standards, then go for it! As long as you’re aware that the dishes don’t make you a better person and that they don’t create or hold or manifest your memories and emotions. Everybody has a passion. Seasonal table décor may be yours, and that’s ok. Just go into it understanding the role consumerism is playing in your passion.
Did we miss a way in which seasonal dinnerware has become a massive consumer trap? If so, tell us about it on the social media channels below.