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It is funny...5 years ago, I might have agreed with you completely...but I find myself feeling differently after being out of the US/Western culture for those 5 years. I now live in a country whose main notion of Christmas is that it is a romantic date night for courting couples, that is, if people even are certain of the date. Now I am engaged to a man who is one of those who is entirely uncertain as to what day Christmas might be on, and is even more baffled by the concept of Christmas Eve. Obviously, my fiance and his family have never celebrated Christmas in any way shape or tree, no gifts, no church service, no special meal, no day off work, no gathering of friends, nothing. They are Christian, but somehow that has not translated to an awareness of the day that Christ was (supposedly) born. However, this year they have shown a keen interest in trying to "get into" Christmas, because they want to include and incorporate some of my traditions into their family life. An odd situation to find yourself in if you once considered yourself a bit of a Scrooge. We just exchanged family gifts today, a bit impromptu, because they were too excited to wait until Christmas Eve or Day. It was truly a simple and joyful gift-giving. Simple things....a cup for someone who has only a couple in the cupboard, long underwear for the construction worker who is outside all day, warming gel for someone who is having trouble with her legs, a pair of movie tickets for the couple who never get a chance to go out. Without a past of gift-giving, there is no game here and no particular expectation of reciprocity. It was the first time either of the sons (in their mid-30s) had given anything to their father at all. Through the simplest of items, with little money spent and nothing flaunted, there was just a sense of kindness, goodwill, and love. It was such a wonderful evening, and there was none of the cynicism that I think comes from years of the overwhelming commercialization of Christmas.
After tonight and then reading this article, I think it is easy to blame the Western version of the holiday, with its excesses...and the easiest solution is not to participate in that. But bear in mind that gift-giving itself is not the cause, but merely a symptom. For those who have bought into the anxiety and "obligations," then perhaps it is healthy to step away. However, bear in mind that a reinvention of the gifting, based on fulfilling needs and warm-hearted attentiveness, can also keep an ancient tradition and ritual of sharing and honoring our relationships alive.