I don’t particularly like shopping for Christmas presents, but last night I spent several hours doing just that. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas – and of course, giving presents to people is a nice sentiment, too. Walking around in streets and shopping centres all decorated for the holidays is nice. But the stress and pressure of it all take away a lot of the fun.
The problem is, it’s so insitutionalised. It is that one time of year that we give each other presents. We know pretty well every year who we will give to and receive from, and also the average amount expected. So every year it’s a rush to find something within that price range that will hopefully make the recipient genuinely happy, not just thanks-for-the-gesture happy. Sometimes it works, and I hope I do have some good things picked out this year, but sometimes – let’s be honest – some of it is really crap. So why do it at all?
It’s easier with children. Perhaps my cynicism is due to the fact that there hasn’t been any kids in the family for a while. Fortunately, my brother and his wife are about to change that.
But if it’s true that it’s not really about the presents but about what they represent, wouldn’t it be better to leave it aside at Christmas? Because of the traditions, it can be hard to distinguish whether you mean it or not.
Instead of all the Christmas stuff, maybe we should start giving presents to people we love at times they don’t expect – all year round. Surprising someone is, after all, a much greater gesture than just conforming to tradition.