On the shiny, glittery gift-wrapped surface of our traditional, western Christmas customs, there are a lot of things that just don’t seem to make much sense.
Take gift exchanges for example.
You potentially wind up spending a significant amount of money on things you hope the people on your list will like and appreciate, or are given wish lists (sometimes more like demands) so you don’t really have a choice of what to buy, and hopefully get things you like in return.
Or, sometimes a spending limit is set, which makes it seem even more like a financial transaction. I will give you this for x-amount of dollars, and you receive the same value in return. Or you make it a straight-up swap and give each other gift cards.
If you spend $100 and get $100 back, then what is the point? I guess I’m just not that sentimental.
Some years I start early and really try to find the perfect gifts and other years I think “You get what you get.”
We spend hours wrapping things in non-recyclable paper (sometimes even just the night before) to have our efforts demolished in seconds, spend hundreds on toys when kids are more interested in the box or the toy breaks in one day and cut down trees that took years to grow just so they can grace our living room for a few weeks. We listen to the same songs on the radio for a month and we tell kids a magical man breaks into our houses and brings them presents in the middle of the night.
It just doesn’t make sense to me — maybe, like the Grinch, my head isn’t screwed on just right, or maybe my shoes are too tight.
In all seriousness though, while there are many commercial aspects to the holiday season that I may not find very meaningful, personally, there are things that do matter to me:
The comfort and sense of security that the predictability of traditions bring, from familiar foods at Christmas dinner, to being surrounded by the same loved ones year after year, and watching someone’s face light up when they open an unexpected gift they are delighted about.
Sadly, some of the things that matter most won’t be happening this year, but they will be replaced by things that matter just as much:
Family members willing to drive hours in the car just to leave presents on your porch and wave to you through the window or parcels received through the mail; video calls of gifts being opened; more time spent with immediate family in your household with perhaps less pressure and bustle in the day as they stay home instead of travelling, and memories of Christmases past spent with loved ones no longer with us.
To borrow and adapt the words of the illustrious author Dr. Seuss, maybe in the new year we’ll be saying:
It came without gatherings,
It came without feasts,
It came without visits, or carolling or grandma’s roast beast,
The true meaning of Christmas can’t be taken away,
Even if this darn virus chooses to stay.