This year I felt supremely confident that finally, I had put aside any lingering angst around present giving. I proudly told my envious friends, who anxiously wondered if they would ever escape the clutches of the biggest bullying season of the year, that yes- at long last I had it down to one present each for the girls and one to share between them.
As to extended family as in past years, I would present my baked goods- but this year, with one difference-I'd attained a heightened level of contemplativeness that allowed me to be unconcerned about whether family members (in-laws that is) would consider me cheap.
My own family no longer exchanges gifts-but they do bring gifts for the kids. We have a new addition too- a 10 month old and we did buy her a gift.
Anyway, where was I to be found Christmas eve? Dizzily roaming around town looking for gifts to put in my kids stockings -because they had decided that Santa was coming after all (there had been a couple months discussion as to the existence of the jolly saint. And although I knew they didn't believe in him anymore I felt that I'd play along).
Now this, mind you was after all the talk about the true meaning of Christmas.
"What is Christmas about?" I inquired smugly of my poor, bewildered friends. "It's not about buying stuff. Stuff doesn't buy love," I lectured on. Besides, the ones who have the most get the most, so where is the sharing that Christians say is what Christ came to teach us about?
I mean some of us aren't even Christian. And even if we were the message Christ was born to convey was how to live in brotherhood and sisterhood with one's neighbours and how to live a life of 'the good.'
"So we shouldn’t be participating in this perverted, frenzied celebration," I concluded triumphantly.
But didn't I return home from my guilty errand with more stuff to prove my point? And didn't I put money in the beautiful cards we made (linoleum cuts) for the cousins? And didn't I feel slightly miffed when during the present exchange our tins of home-made cookies were handed out last?
'Stupid me, I forgot to read my 2004 entry ( see below). But next year.....I'll be ready. R's there already. He did nothing except buy himself a fine bottle of ameretto. So there.
Christmas. Again. 2004
Christmas. It hit me in the face. I remember exactly where i was; i was at the Shoppers Drugstore in the plaza. My 2 youngest daughters curious to experience church for the first time were over at the cathedral with my mum and i had slunk out of there in a hurry. I was buying a pair of mitts for M who had ventured out mitten- less on what was beyond a doubt the coldest night of the year.
There I was, searching through the aisles, the Christmas displays and promptings to 'buy' your loved ones, the Christmas carols coming on loud and clear. The count down had begun- time to give. Time to receive.
I stopped in my tracks purple mittens in hand. Hang on i thought. I am being assaulted. I am having Christmas stuffed down my throat. (There needs to be stores of refuge from the onslaught, where there is not a single reminder of the season!)
Don't get me wrong. I like an opportunity to celebrate, of course i do. Good fun, good food, friends and family. But, good people I ask you is buying a gift on cue, like Pavlov’s dog, the way we want to relate to another person just because somewhere along the line an 11th commandment appeared; 'Thou shalt love prove your love and appreciation for another by buying them stuff?'
What in the name of Jesus is going on??
The wise men who are given the credit for today’s extravagant and excessive present exchanging probably were honouring the Christ child in a way that was fit for a King in those times as well as being symbolic of their beliefs- that indeed, although, he lay in a filthy manger used by animals (contrast this scene with images of the modern day parents selecting the right colours for the baby's room); this child had a colossal role to play.
How does buying someone a digital camera (the choice gift of the year 2004 says my father in law) or giving them money because you don't actually know that person well enough anyway to know what they want ('they want!') have to do with the intention behind this sacred birth story??
And what's more, did Jesus's parents feel obligated to give an equally sumptuous offering? There was no way these dirt poor people could afford to give something that grand in return, and they were not expected too of course.
So today, does it mean that because some one gives you stuff that you have to give them something back? This is no longer an offering, instead it is a business transaction- not even beneficial in most cases. It is insulting and insincere to the act of gifting.
As to kids, I don’t think they benefit from getting many presents- IT IS TOO MUCH. TOO MUCH STUFF LEADS TO EVER SOARING EXPECTATIONS, difficult to meet in the long run.
And when does a child stop being a child? At 14? 16? My 26 year old sister is still considered part of the child category.
Let’s focus on the message- go out and do something good.
This is an excerpt from a song that expresses some of my feelings nicely.
Another X-Mas Song
If I hear another Christmas song
I really think
I mean there probably was a time
I wish it were a silent night
Dare I say "Sir.
or meet just one of these supposed wise men