[N.B. This is a re-post from last year, but I thought it worth sharing again]
OK, I don’t really hate Christmas. But there is a part of it that I despise. I remember once being at a Christmas party where several people exchanged gifts – all the gifts, it turns out, were gift cards. These folks basically just swapped cash, an empty gesture if the balances are equal, and the only one who really benefits is the merchant. I thought, “Couldn’t we just skip the gift-giving and celebrate the birth of Christ? Why these meaningless exchanges of goods?” Surely whatever money we spend on gifts could be put to better use.
Now, there are times in which gift-giving is a joyous experience. Take the following commercial for example:
I’ve often come across something that “would be just perfect for so-and-so.” And I knew it would bring them great happiness to receive it. And sometimes I’ve even received such gifts. But those are few and far between.
C.S. Lewis in his essay, “What Christmas Means To Me,” identifies four reasons that this whole burden of gift-giving should be condemned:
1. It gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it…in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out–physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making…They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.
One needs only hear the annual horror stories of “Black Friday” sales to know this is true.
2. Most of it is involuntary. The modern rule is that anyone can force you to give him a present by sending you a quite unprovoked present of his own. It is almost a blackmail…
3. Things are given as presents which no mortal ever bought for himself–gaudy and useless gadgets, ‘novelties’ because no one was ever fool enough to make their like before. Have we really no better use for materials and for human skill and time than to spend them on all this rubbish?
4. The nuisance. For after all, during the racket we still have all our ordinary and necessary shopping to do, and the racket trebles the labour of it.
We are told that the whole dreary business must go on because it is good for trade…But can it really be my duty to buy and receive masses of junk every winter just to help the shopkeepers? If the worst comes to the worst I’d sooner give them money for nothing and write it off as a charity. For nothing? Why, better for nothing than for a nuisance.
So, will I abstain from buying gifts for mom, dad, and grandma? Probably not, but if we are casual aquantences and you get me a gift, don’t expect one in return – I’m drawing a line in the sand. Here, and no further!