‘‘Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” — Norman Vincent Peale.

During the holidays, these cliché sayings expressing wishes of holiday hope and love plaster the covers of greeting cards, television commercials, songs, storefronts and even food packages. It’s during these weeks that giving time, gifts and money to charity becomes commonplace. In these high spirited weeks, Americans give 24% of their charitable donations of the entire year, according to a 2007 survey conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. People’s hearts seem to open as they care for their neighbors, all seemingly in the spirit of the season.

It is this glossy and idealistic idea of what the world should be like during the holiday season that drives advertisements and greeting cards. But is it really the true intention of people during this time? Even as pleasant visions of man helping man run through the public’s mind, advertisers are busy at work bombarding consumers with endless commercials, sales and announcements.

Beginning with Black Friday straight through to the end of the year, Americans run to department stores across the country to snatch up gifts. It is this rapid consumerism that makes one wonder if the “spirit of Christmas” is really so spirited after all. Shoppers become so crazed in the hopes of grabbing the latest iPhone or X-box off the shelf that they forget the generous spirit they are supposed to have.

In extreme cases, individuals have even died in the madness of Black Friday shopping. One such instance was in November 2008, when a Wal-Mart worker died after being trampled by a mob of shoppers, according to Joe Gould of the NYDailyNews. It is this insanity that counteracts the vision of worldly peace and love that is sold to Americans every year. How can both advertisers and the public-at-large claim that a new sense of universal love is present during the holidays, yet then act so crazed and trample someone to death in the pursuit of this year’s Tickle Me Elmo? The two ideas are not compatible.

While the admirable hope of people coming together through generosity during the holidays is an optimistic idea, in reality humanity is far from that kind of love. Instead, we are stuck in this horrid cycle of holiday consumerism madness. If people want to truly take part in the “spirit of Christmas,” then the extreme consumerism that takes over in December needs to stop. Instead of becoming obsessed with hitting the last sales of the year in order to buy this year’s must-have gifts, people should focus on what actually is “the true spirit of Christmas”—the people they love and care about.