I was going to start by saying "I hate Christmas", but of course I don't hate Christmas, well at least not all of Christmas. There is enough to love about Christmas to still make it a special time of the year, even if those things don't have much to do with religion, decorations, santa claus or the baby jesus! Its probably easier to start with the things I love about Christmas, those are (In no particular order), time off from work, time with my family, James Bond reruns, reminiscing old times with loved ones, and the opportunity to eat and drink far too much to completely digest in a 3 month period.
The thing I hate about Christmas is or are - presents. Not just the giving, but the receiving also. I simply do not understand why we put us through the absolute nightmare that is buying presents for family and foe. Don't get me wrong, buying presents for young children and grandparents, or tipping the waitresses at your regular restaurant, even slipping the office cleaner a few extra bucks can feel very rewarding, watching their eyes light up, and the genuine thanks on their faces when they have tore open the carefully wrapped fluffy effigy of a kamikaze bird or their weeks salary in a small red envelope are moments that cant be brought - er well obviously they can, but you know what I mean.
What I hate Is the completely ludicrous tradition of buying aunt Mildred a fruit bowl, or Brian from next door a pair of ear muffs. Why? if they had wanted those things why didn't they buy them themselves? If I want something I save, compare prices, make a decision and, well go and buy it - it is that simple. Of course If I cant afford something I either don't have it, buy it on credit or heaven forbid save until I do have enough money - besides these aren't the things that your going to get as presents, and if you do, you will be expected to have given a similar value present back, which defeats the object! Yes I know the object of giving is not the receiving, and yes I know that all of the joy is in the giving and not in the receiving. Tell that to the bank manager!
This whole issue of giving not to receive is a con, made up by mind bending commercial PR types, using a simple method to break the stalemate that is - you buy me something , and i will buy you something. No one wants to spend money without the prospect of getting something in return, so to break the deadlock some clever sole decided that they would play the religious and sanctimonious card by suggesting that 'it was better to give than receive" poppycock. The only people who don't care about not receiving anything are either priests, billionaires, Jehovah witnesses or liars. Try it, one year don't buy anyone (except for your children) a present and then watch how many you get the following year - you will be as popular as the Euro. The idea that presents are supposed to have a emotional, pure or spiritual meaning behind them, that we should give something from the heart is also bullshit - people want DVD's, CD's, Aftershave/Perfume, Store Vouchers, even a bottle of the hard stuff will suffice. Again try it this year - make everyone a present from things you find around the house, tell them that you put a lot of thought into their gift, that you contemplated how much they meant to you and decided to give them your most valuable possession, your love and your time - see how many toilet roll holders you get the following year!
The whole exercise has deteriorated into almost an exchange of £$20 notes,
"Here I brought you this, I hope you like it?"
"Oh thank-you, you shouldn't have"
" We got you this, its just a little something"
"Oh thank-you, I wasn't expecting anything in return"
The first thought both people have is - "Thank god we brought them something", closely followed by "did their gift cost more than ours?" , and when you open it you think, "Oh just what I always wanted, a Avocado peeler", "I wish I had kept the present that I gave them, at least I could have found a use for the Rubber Tree de-fluffier".
Rather than carrying on with the physical activity, I think we should come up with a way of just exchanging the thought, something like this;
"Hi great to see you, Happy Christmas",
"Hi, Happy Christmas, its been ages",
"We decided not to buy you any crap that you didnt really want this year, but we did think about it, and we are giving you the gift to spend the £$20 you would have spent on buying us a cocktail stick holder, on something for your self"
"Thats great, and we would like to give you the gift of keeping your own £$20, to buy something for yourself"
Both parties go away without having spend any money, without having brought something destined for the Church's next tombola, and without wondering who spent the most money - perfect! Of course the shops needn't worry as all of that money we had been told to keep or 'give to ourselves' could be used to buy stuff we really want or need, and to ensure that we did in fact buy something and didn't just fritter the money pledge to ourselves on something frivolous like a utility bill, food or petrol, we would have to send a letter (or email - lets save those trees, so we can cut them down and put electric lights on them next year) thanking the pledger explaining what we purchased with their pledge and vice versa. Of course you will always have some dopey uncle who would make you pledge to give yourself a couple of grand because he wanted a new Plasma TV for his dog kennel, but you can always get your own back next year when the bank loan for your 2nd floor patio come in.
Of course the other aspect of present buying this eradicates is the list writing the thought preparation, and of course the requirement to traipse around the shops with a billion other idiots. Think of the fuel saved, the time, the pressure and the relationships. No more worrying if the Arron jumper will fit Cousin Velma, or the fluffy pink slippers will match your brothers furniture, and best of all no more sycophantic gift giving to those people you cant stand.
I am not proposing you don't give gifts to those who cant give you presents back, the young, the old and the infirm - you should spend your time, energy and money on making sure these few that cant buy themselves anything, and thus don't have to, or don't even think about the consequences of not reciprocating.
I almost forgot - Merry Christmas....