Part One of a Series
When traditions are first established in a society or community, and they “take hold,” they will soon spread out to other communities
(towns, cities, or countries) that will then take on those traditions as their own. Along with carrying on those original traditions, other touches will be added by the varying members of those other communities to make the traditions more their own, which brings us directly to all the traditions that we in this country associate with Christmas.
Shopping is a big one. Taking a step back, shopping became ensconced as part of the Christmas season because people love to give gifts to people they care about or love — and many even give gifts to those they feel obligated to “remember.” The first category of givers don’t need Christmas to express their gift-giving proclivities but seem very happy to have that holiday to lend credence to their desire to give.
And the second category of givers contributes to the commercial aspect of Christmas expressed through the outlets that offer the merchandise or services that can be chosen as the gifts for those “on the list,” which make both the buyer and the seller happy for that accommodation that furthers what we call “the Christmas season,” whether or not the recipients of said gifts are delighted with what they receive. It is, after all, tradition to give such gifts. And, need we add, there is always that feeling of “expectation” in the air on the part of the receivers.
Every year, that aspect of Christmas becomes the focal point of outrage and indignation from various individuals or certain groups of
those wanting to “Keep Christ in Christmas” who become naysayers of the traditional idea of gift-giving, or commercialization of
Christmas. The basis for such vitriol toward making Christmas a season of selling and buying, giving and getting, is founded in their belief that Christmas, as they believe it to be, is a time to reflect on the sanctity of the child Jesus being born into this world to become the savior of all humanity. Many choose to believe that Christmas really is the birthday of baby Jesus. Yet they can keep that “sanctity” of the day in their own way, without poo-pooing the tradition of Christmas shopping for those who love to indulge in that experience.
Different countries have different traditions, but sufficient for my purposes, for now, is to speak (write) of the usual traditions in this
country, whether one lives in New York City, Chicago, Las Angeles, Las Vegas, or Pahrump. And “Christmas shopping” is one of those traditions. It’s not just about the buying of gifts, it’s also about the shopping experience; the feeling of being part of the hustle and bustle, if you will, of being in the various stores with other shoppers and sharing even brief moments of the “we’re all in this
together experience,” enjoying the decorations of the season, coupled with the Christmas music throughout the stores, all wrapped up in the desire to find just the right gifts for Aunt Marion and Uncle Frank.
While hecticness may be in the air, there’s also that sense of pleasure and dedication to the cause, and taking that well-deserved
break for coffee or hot chocolate now and then that helps grant the weary body that much more energy to pursue the goal of getting it
Here’s the bottom line on Christmas shopping: If you don’t wish to indulge in present-giving then don’t indulge. But please don’t
criticize those who do choose to indulge. If someone wishes to give you a gift, accept it because it is from their heart. Not accepting it
— unless of course, it is a totally unacceptable gift, such as something personal from a person who is not that close to you (such as
lingerie from a man who is not your husband or boyfriend), or outrageously expensive (such as jewelry, furs, or a new car, and there
is no particular reason for that extravagance)—is unkind to the giver.
Gifts given do not have to be reciprocated with gifts of like value; and saying something like, “I didn’t get you anything” merely brings the gift-giving moment or experience down to the level of a “gift exchange.” Accept gifts happily, and try not to make the giver feel awkward.
Give when you feel like it, whether it is Christmas or not, yet allow others to give when they want to, whether you feel the same sense of giving or not. Our tradition of giving at Christmas time comes from our inner sense of liking to give to others, even if it is revved up — or overly encouraged — by the advertising world and the sellers of the merchandise and/or services that we might buy.
The thing that we might want to take into consideration is the lesson that we could be teaching children when we give them everything they want or ask for at Christmastime. Parents do not have access to the never-empty Santa sack, into which they can plunge their arm and pull out the gift of their child’s choice, no matter how much it costs, how difficult it would be to get, or even its appropriateness for that child. If parents raise their children in a manner that keeps them free from greed and selfishness and fills them with thoughtfulness, understanding, and kindness, they would never ask for that extremely expensive electronic device, perhaps coupled with that designer-name jacket and a new $1,000 cell phone. To give them everything they ask for sends them the message that they can get anything they want if they just ask for it. (As in parents are supposed to give their children what they want; don’t they make themselves into Santa just for the occasion?)
When you think about it, really, you know when it comes to children that it is the lessons they learn that make them into the adults they become. Do you only want to please them by giving in to their many requests, something which might only last for the day or the moment, or do you want to “build” their character with values, helping them to understand the nature of those qualities in themselves that will make them pleasing to God and others as they grow? A well-raised child is a joy to behold, a priceless “gift” to the parent/s who did the raising, and an asset to the community. You can always buy an electronic gizmo or a new cell phone, but the qualities of kindness, sharing, honesty and such are priceless, and the lessons lost will show up and come back to haunt you.
Teaching such things is up to the adults in the child’s life. Don’t waste valuable gift-giving-opportunities on only giving tangible gifts
that can be broken, lost, or taken for granted. Yet do recognize that small tangible gifts will make anyone feel good they were remembered.
Just give what you know the person would like and give with a happy and loving heart, and don’t worry that you did not spend “enough.” Christmas shopping and buying can be one more way to show love!
* * * * *
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.