My wife appreciates the Christmas season more than I do, but she bristles at the unthinking, slavish, and desperate attempts at gift giving, the purchase of anything (often at the last moment) to satisfy a check-off on the gift list.
She has a point. This year Americans will spend nearly $260 million between Thanksgiving and Christmas, accounting for about 40 percent of annual sales in some stores. In a time to honor the birth of our Savior, the real savior to many is the credit card.
Christmas is a time to purchase lavish-looking coffee table books that few will ever open. It’s a time to buy relatives sweaters and ties that will grow musty in closets the rest of the year. It’s a time when gift cards will be misplaced and when assorted cookies/fudge/fruitcakes/ will be transported to work in the hopes that someone will eat them.
As the writer E.B. White wrote, “Perceiving Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult each year.”
Unlike my wife, however, I don’t necessarily feel depressed by the last-minute frenzy of gift buying. Most gifts are not unappreciated, even if the item has little relationship to the recipient. A gift is a demonstration that the gift-giver thought of us С and that’s a nice thing no matter what age we are. As adults, we understand that we aren’t going to get a pony for Christmas, but there’s still an excitement in wondering what is contained inside a smartly wrapped box.
Who cares if a science fiction reader receives a romance novel? He or she can either return it for something they prefer or regift to another person. In a commercial world it is difficult to select the prized gift for every single person, and if the mall is a conduit to show recognition, so be it.
I refuse to be depressed by the shopping mobs, even though I wish Christmas could be more about the manger than the mall.