{.what do you want for christmas.}

by devourslowly

Image is from here

What do you want for Christmas?

I don’t know, nothing, everything, surprise me.

What do you want for Christmas?

I haven’t the faintest clue.

What do you want for Christmas?

Pots of gold, ten million of your earthly dollars and a singing telegram delivered by a Bill Nighy in a giant donut suit.  If you cannot deliver, do not bother.

What do you want for Christmas?

Do not bother me with your pagan trifle.  I am busy and important.

I warn you Mr. Bond, my patience is not inexhaustible.  Tell me what you want for Christmas or my pretty little piranhas will have you for breakfast.


At this point, the conversation will typically degrade into an exchange of James Bond one-liners.  All the while the issue of the ideal present remains unresolved while Christmas surely and quickly creeps up on us.

This incessant questioning every year got me thinking about Christmas its inherent ritualistic gift-giving.  In a world that is already driven out of control by consumerism (Well, at least in my world.  I don’t know what world you live in but if you are reading this blog, chances are you have some sort of Internet connection and chances are the mass culture of consumption has somehow pervaded your world too.), how can we salvage the spirit of Christmas when the festival is so inextricably linked with mechanical gift exchanges, rampant corporate persuasions and an insatiable consumer appetite that is always searching for the next big thing?

First thing first.  I am not religious.  I choose to have faith in my fellow human beings rather than an unseen but omnipresent God.  Coming from a Buddhist tradition on my father’s side, Taoist from my mother’s, having scientist parents and being educated by Catholic nuns between the ages of 3 and 12 does that to you.  For someone like me to celebrate Christmas like all good Christians is therefore rather disingenuous.  But since Parliament enshrined the 25th of December as a statutory holiday, I do put on a spread and make a day of it.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not adverse to Christmas as a Christian institution.  If there is ever a day that symbolises the birth of my values then I too would want to give it all due respect by making a big deal out of it.  I am however unconvinced about the tradition of gifts that seems to have exploded on the modern psyche.  Everywhere I look these days, signs of Christmas are all accompanied by a consumerist overtone.  Someone somewhere always wants to sell you something.

Gifts at Christmas are not just an homage to the Three Wise Men’s offerings and St Nicholas’ charitable giving, they are also a glowing symbolism of God’s gifts to men.  The most prolific of gift-givers will also tell you that Christmas gifts are a way to show love and appreciation for the special person in your life.  Fair enough.  From time to time you might want to treat a few people in your life.  Christmas is as good an occasion as any to do so.

However, the group of people we are now socially expected to give gifts to is expanding at a somewhat alarming rate.  What may had started off as a group including family and selective friends now includes co-workers, neighbours, employers, the local tattoo parlour owner who moonlights as a wedding celebrant and so on.  All of a sudden the cost of Christmas sky-rockets to something positively galactic.  Unfortunately Columbian orphans do not cry tears of diamond neither does money fall off trees – most of us simply do not have enough budget to buy stunning presents for the growing group of our Christmas beneficiaries.  The result?  Cheerful but often cheap and unwanted presents that get put on Trade Me, eBay and Craigslist as early as Boxing Day.  It depresses me that we are becoming a culture of people who are not able to say a simple, ‘Thank you for a great year and I wish you and your family a happy holiday.’ without feeling the need to bump up our sincerity a notch by a meaningless present whose only merit is that it is tangible and therefore must mean more than mere words.

So here it is: I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas.  Eat ample, drink lots, be joyous and celebrate with your swag of friends.  You won’t be getting a present from me this year but I am thankful of you all the same.