Christmas has become a transaction. Families, in some kind of warped attempt to avoid the materialism of Christmas, ironically turn to a “Secret Santa” option which invariably goes a little like this:
“We can’t afford to buy for everyone, so let’s draw names out of a hat and just buy one ‘good’ present.”
Straight off the bat, the assumption is that if we don’t make the budget higher and put all our funds into one ‘good’ present we’ll only get five crap presents and no one will be happy.
So this is how it unravels: Bill draws Marge. He tells Marge that he’s drawn out her name (so it’s no longer a secret and thus taking away the first fundamental of “secret” Santa) and he promptly asks her what she wants. She says, “just get me a Myer voucher, ‘cause I don’t trust you to get me anything decent, and I’ll go get myself something I want.”
Marge draws out Sue. Marge decides to get Sue a Big W voucher because she can’t be bothered to think of something Sue might want (and besides no one will forget how last year Sue complained for three days about vase she was given). Sue draws Bill. She too asks him what he wants and he says some money because he wants to put it towards a new drill set he wants.
They agree on a price cap of exactly $100. So on Christmas day they exchange the cash and vouchers. No one is surprised and everyone spent exactly $100 dollars. The smile at each other and mumble sarcastic thank-yous. Seriously, what a waste of everyone’s time. Why didn’t they all just go and get themselves something – worth $100 – and forget the “gift giving” charade altogether.
I love and adore my family, but in the past week I have received 1. A text instructing me to give one lot of nephews cash; and 2. An email asking that we don’t give the other lot of nephews anything because every year they get so many presents that they don’t even know who they are from.
Both come from a good place. 1. I don’t want you to waste money on something my children will throw in the bin; 2. I don’t want my children caught up in all the materialism.
But both cases, something is terribly wrong. Love. Graciousness. The magic of a gift.
The definition of ‘gift’ is, “something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation.”
It is not: “A agreed transaction between two people to satisfy a materialistic cultural phenomena”.
We have a responsibility to future generations to stop the madness before we completely spiral into a gift-giving abyss.