Thursday Born

The everyday life of a medical student (who was born on a Thursday).

Rethinking Christmas

with 6 comments

I’m going to be talking about Christmas here;  I’m Roman Catholic, and it’s my favorite holiday, but I think a lot of this is generalizable to other holidays.

The issue of presents has been an odd one in my household these past few years. No one’s really sure what to get anyone and gone are the days when all six of us were back in Ghana in time for Christmas day itself. Twice now my second brother, the Resident, has missed Christmas and so we pushed back present opening till he arrived. This year, two of my brothers won’t be here yet. We’re also not just six anymore. My oldest brother is married (and with a newborn baby!) and the second is engaged, and bringing his fiance.

In the US, and probably in most of the Christmas celebrating world, the overall commercial aspect of Christmas hasn’t changed much. Now though, there are lots of counter movements. There’s the religious ones, and then there’s the ones that may or may not be religious, but that still try to captivate the warm, family message without the price tag and store bought aspect. Some people are turning their backs on gift giving altogether, and others are trying to focus more on giving handmade things, consumable things, and/or experiences.

I go back and forth between ideas. My parents are actively practicing Catholics, and so family Christmas always means mass in the morning; that won’t change. After mass there’s usually brunch, at home or out at a hotel. And then either that day or a few days later, we open presents.

As a very little kid, the magic of Christmas did have a good amount to do with the presents, but honestly, I think a lot of it was also just that everyone else was happy and excited and we were all together. Christmas is a festive change of pace; how could I not love it? I don’t remember most of my presents that clearly, and I don’t have a single, “Christmas was awesome because I got X” memory.  And I loved Easter too and my household was not big on commercializing that holiday. We would travel to Abidjan, go to church (in French; but the cathedral was gorgeous) and spend time together. I have vague memories of an easter egg hunt in the US when I must have been four, and memories of one in Adbijan, and that’s it.

So holidays can certainly be special without the gifts.

I can’t help but want to hang on to the Christmas gift giving though. My family is rarely together for each other’s birthdays and generally we just call each other. This makes Christmas the one time a year we are guaranteed to exchange gifts. Is gift giving necessary at all? Perhaps no, but I enjoy it a lot. I think it is one of my love languages (see: The five languages of love) and I’ve only recently started trying to give gifts myself (usually my brothers and I gave joint gifts; read, my oldest brother bought gifts that we all put our names on). I’m finally taking part, and yet at the same time our Christmas is evolving and I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the end. Are we nearing the end of a family Christmas? I want to hang onto it for as long as I can. My older brothers were out of the house by the time I was eleven so Christmas has always been a special time for me as it is also the one time of the year we were all guaranteed to be together.

So I’m trying to develop my own gift ethic. I enjoy crafting, I enjoy cooking, and I also enjoy trying to shop for the right gift. I’m particularly fond of the combination of food item + book. Last year I infused my own liqueurs and made peppermint bark, and I think this year I made peppermint bark and a version of almond roca.

I think there is nothing inherently wrong with giving gifts for Christmas, so long as all parties are happy with the idea. I think some people would maybe benefit from realizing that maybe gifts don’t have to be big and expensive, but simply well thought out and well suited to the receiver. Last year my boyfriend and I decided to skip giving gifts to each other because we were both stressed at the time and one fewer person to give a gift to was a welcome change. We’re also skipping gifts again this year (though we are exchanging cards, which will both be varying degrees of late). It feels more okay doing that with him than with my family, since we do celebrate each other’s birthdays with gifts, and we also have our anniversary (for which I think we’re going to make a tradition of  an agreed upon joint gift + smaller inexpensive individual gifts).

Such a long post, all about Christmas and presents! Obviously, this is something I’ve thought a lot about. I’ve even started thinking about what I want to do next year! 🙂 Yeah, I’m definitely going to keep going with gifts.

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Written by Aba

December 23, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. i think i like giving gifts, especially to people who i don’t see often, because it’s something that reminds them of me. for me (i know it sounds corny) it’s important to remember/know people i love are still out there and will think of me.

    Shanchan

    December 24, 2009 at 2:14 am

    • Yeah, gifts are a nice “forget me not” sort of thing. =)

      Aba

      December 25, 2009 at 3:44 pm

  2. I love giving gifts! Especially when you find something you know the person will like. I take a long long time to think about what the person may have said to me in passing or what I know they love, and i usually keep tabs of it somewhere on paper, (or gmail drafts!) or in my head. I like the idea of giving someone something thoughtful that they totally didn’t expect.
    On the other hand, if you can’t give gifts, mailing a xmas card can be cute too, and something a lot of people just don’t do anymore.
    🙂

    Amrita

    December 24, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    • I love long term gift planning like that (unfortunately, the same trait makes me difficult to shop for because just like how I take note of what other people want, I don’t really forget what I want or who I’ve said I want it to, which means people often have to come up with something entirely on their own if they actually want to surprise me).

      Cards are great. I always wish I was really into photography and good at it, because I’d love to make my own cards/postcards every year to send to people. 🙂

      Which reminds me; I need to look into some nice letter writing paper.

      Aba

      December 25, 2009 at 3:50 pm

  3. PS. I just took that love language quiz (as you can see I get lots of work done at work!), and my highest was quality time… everything else was pretty much below 5, heh.. The questions were interesting..

    Amrita

    December 24, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    • I can’t remember if I’d ever actually taken the quiz before… k, took it. 10 for Quality Time, 9 for Physical Touch, 8 for Words of Affirmation, 3 for Acts of Service and 0 for Receiving Gifts. ^^ Honestly though, I have a lot of trouble saying what I really prefer. I don’t think I have a clear preference, and I do like receiving gifts, but I am really picky about them… Yeah, that’s definitely the last of my Love Languages! I guess my results are pretty accurate.

      Aba

      December 25, 2009 at 4:11 pm


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