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.
I still remember the pure pleasure of being together for Christmas, waiting anxiously for a gift that would truly be a surprise; unwrapping a gift that had been chosen in love; laughing, enjoying the moment; and experiencing the present-giving and receiving as an expression of the grace and goodwill of God’s gift to us at Christmas.
Remember the children blissfully singing all I want for Christmas is my two-front teeth. It was a time of simplicity. Nowadays, that kid’s probably happy to have lost his front teeth cause even the toothfairy’s rate has escalated so much so that I’m guessing we’ll soon see floating 50 buck notes in the glass of water, or a Target gift card slid under the pillow.
It’s true, sometimes we receive gifts that aren’t exactly what we’d pick for ourselves. My husband for one wants to wipe the whole rubber dinghy debacle from his memory…. But if you ask me, gifts that aren’t perfect are part of the fun. They create memories, enjoyment, and family history. I’ll always remember getting the pink striped dress from Nana, when my cousin got the blue one; and not having the heart to tell Nana that pink really wasn’t my favourite colour. But I wore it and I loved it. It was 28 years ago and I can still see and smell and feel that dress as though it was yesterday. I still remember all the cousins giggling and rolling our eyes when Nana gave us a beach towel for three Christmases in a row. Practical, and generous. And she’d picked the colours that she thought matched our personalities. I always got the pink one.
I know some of you will think I’m crazy. “See!”, I hear you scoff, “you risk letting people buy you something you don’t want!” But, there is that word again WANT. WANT. WANT.
Well, I’ll tell you what I WANT.
I WANT people to stop asking me what I WANT for Christmas. I want people to stop telling me what they WANT for Christmas. I WANT there to be no agreed contracts about the financial minimum or maximum on a Christmas gift. No instructions as to what you can and can’t get. No more vouchers, i-cards and e-cards. No built-up expectations that if you don’t get something they want you have achieved an ‘epic fail’.
I just WANT to go back to time when Christmas was joyful and unpretentious and non-transactional.
All I want for Christmas is the Christmas spirit back.
Based in regional Queensland, Megan works in communications and marketing in a large accounting firm, as well as helping in her husband’s cotton and grain transport business. She adores her husband, and loves to write, sing and dance (like nobody’s watching); but most of all she relishes in the challenges and joys of raising three active children – Miss 11, and Masters 9 and 7.