Nothing sums up holiday spirit like two mothers fighting over a bicycle in a children’s toy store, right?

As I was going through my daily routine of Internet surfing, I saw a story about two women engaging in a battle of tug-of-war and words. I was struck by the ridiculous nature of two adults fighting over an item that their children will most likely disregard a month after they get it.

I saw a story of a man who became the victim of Black Friday madness when he got stuck in the doorway at Target and was repeatedly stepped on by those eager to score big on sale items. An employee noticed him lying on the floor among rushing feet and managed to pull him out.

Stories like these should be shocking and disturbing, but in recent years, have become all too familiar. It appears that the warmth of the holidays has been replaced with cold-hearted consumerism. Most people anticipated Thanksgiving not only because it was a day to spend with loved ones, but also because it marked the beginning of the holiday season.

But nowadays, Thanksgiving stands as a reminder for Black Friday and, more recently, Cyber Monday.

What happened to the spirit of the holidays?

What happened to the feelings of joy and kindness which are supposed to dominate the atmosphere during December? Have they been replaced by mark-downs and discounts?

Gift-giving has become a rat race for scoping out the sales on the latest trends and fads. The notion of gift-giving has shifted from “it’s the thought that counts” to “it only counts if you got it.”

Rather than viewing the gift as a heartfelt gesture, one that expresses love or appreciation for another, people now view gift-giving as a chore, or a test of showmanship to prove who can purchase the gift which was requested, or who can get the better gift.

Parents are particularly guilty of such a mindset, especially the ones who camp outside a store to ensure that their children are granted whatever they desire. They immerse themselves in the madness of Black Friday, risking serious injury as they scurry through throngs of people and crowded aisles, standing on long lines, and fighting over the last toy on the shelf.

Isn’t it ironic that in our attempts to make our friends and family smile on Christmas day, we release our anger and frustrations on others who are trying to do the same for the people they love? The holiday season should bring out the best in us, not the worst.

By focusing all of our attention on Christmas sales, we truly do forget the real meaning of the holidays. More important than stocking up on presents (or even the season’s religious significance) is spending time with the people we love. When we chose to focus on how much money we could save or spend, rather than how much time we could spend or how many memories we could cherish with our friends and family, the holiday lost its meaning.

With each passing year, it seems that the spirit of the holidays is slowly but surely diminishing, leaving people as holiday zombies with no hearts required, just wallets.