Christmas is not my birthday. and it’s probably not your birthday either-unless of course you are one of the few people i know that does in fact have a birthday on december 25th. so when did Christmas become synonymous with presents?
Christmas is not wal-mart’s birthday either and should not be a holiday that tributes consumerism, overspending, and material items. religious or not, i believe that Christmas should be more than receiving all the gifts on your wish list. yes, buying presents and spending money on the people in your life can show that you love and care about them; but doesn’t your presence do the same?
trust me, i love getting presents, especially when it is something i really need and won’t have to buy for myself. but this year, i wanted Christmas to be more meaningful. so i didn’t ask for anything. and actually, i didn’t really want anything. what i wanted was to give gifts that meant something, to spend the weekend with my family, to make memories. because to be honest, i really couldn’t tell you what i got for Christmas two years ago; but i can tell you exactly what we did. and the only things i remember about my childhood holidays are the gingerbread houses, cookie decorating, and the plays we made for our parents. overall, i can’t really tell you anything about the gifts i received-except that they were probably toys, clothes, or books. but i can tell you how we celebrated. i can remember watching a movie together with my family, preparing santa’s snack for the night, and having a sleepover with my brother as we listened for reindeer on our roof. i can remember going to midnight mass and being in awe of how beautiful the church looked and how wonderful the choir sang.
everyday society encourages us to buy, buy, buy. to work extra hours and get overtime. the week leading up to thanksgiving and every moment after is about buying presents. have you ever seen a commercial that says, don’t buy anything. stay home. work less. enjoy your time together. probably not. because for them, that is not the point.
if and when you do buy gifts, why not consider the gift of education? or make donations in your friends’ names to charities? or, at the very least, make sure the products you are buying have a good track record and are eco-friendly. why not buy gifts that will bring value into the other person’s life?
i don’t want to be stressed out about spending less time with my family so that i can work more to buy them gifts. and i especially don’t want anyone else being stressed out about buying me a gift. i will always choose no gifts at all if it means spending an uninterrupted day talking to and laughing with my family.
the clothes, toys, lotions, and gadgets will be there tomorrow, and always.
but unfortunately, this moment and your family will not.
societal norms and messages need to change.
the first thing people ask after Christmas is, “what did you get?” but what if we could change that. what if Christmas was about serving others? What if the question was, what did you do?- and not just meaning activities for the day, but activities for the greater good? what if the day was about making sure that everyone would eat. that everyone had electricity. or that all of the people who are homeless had something warm to wear. or that every child was told that they could do anything, that every person in an institutionalized setting had a visitor. what if the day was about more than presents?