I know it's a little past Christmas, but I feel like writing, so I might as well write. Sometimes I have days where I could write for hours and never run out of things to say -- other days minutes are a strain. The common feature however is that usually I don't get a chance to write at all, and end up having discussions in my head which are soon forgotten, and never really accomplish anything. With that in mind, I thought today I'd actually write dowe some key points of the discussion raging in the analls of my mind.

Now before I start to disparage Christmas, I should point out that I love most parts of the holiday. It's always nice to have some time off, and it's great to get together with family and to have a good excuse for buying a gift for loved ones. I'm sorry if I'm not into the religious aspects of it, but I am Jewish by birth, and would rather avoid debates on theology.

There are several aspects of the holidays that really bother me. The top of the list would be the exchange of gifts. This little tradition is great with family and close friends, but everyone seems to have a different idea of where the gift giving should end. One person may give a gift to family and to their best friend, whereas another may give a gift to everyone he or she closely associates with. A common idea, however, is that one should recieve a gift from the person they give a gift to. Now let's take these two example people I've created and put them together. Person A will recieve a gift from person B yet have nothing to give in return. The usual response to such a situation would be for person A to make some sort of comment indicating that he/she has indeed bought person B a gift, but that it is currently at another location. This is followed by a rapid trip to the shopping mall, with person A buying something for person B, even if he/she doesn't even like the person! And of course person B doesn't believe this story and feels hurt regardless, making person A's valient last minute effort go to waste.

This is not always the case of course, but when the reciprocation of gifts ideas almost always leaves a few people with a tear in their eye. The person who buys a gift but recieves none in return thinks twice about a friendship, the person who recieves one but who doesn't buy one feels badly about not purchasing a gift, and someone who might want to get someone else a gift will not do so for fear of not getting one in return. It really is a sad situation considering gifts are supposed to be objects of affection, meant to bring joy, not to do harm.

I know what you're thinking... "If this is such a bad situation, then what... *Mr. I'm So Smart* do you think we should do about it?" Well, though not subscribing to the name Mr. I'm So Smart, I do have one solution in mind. Drop the idea of reciprocation. Or don't do gifts at all. Purchase gifts for friends and loved ones whenever you want to, rather than waiting for Christmas every year. What is the exchange of gifts? If you and a friend plan to each buy the other something worth $20 does this ritual have any meaning? You might as well be buying yourself something. It is the unexpected gift that you are most grateful for. It is the gift that is bought to have meaning, rather than bought by someone thinking "I have to get ~so and so~ a gift because..."

If we did not worry about recieving a gift in return, or returning a gift to someone who we think we'll get one from, people will be able to freely buy what they want for whom they want. The whole tradition becomes more honest, and more heartfelt. Sure you may give more than you recieve, or recieve more than you give, but why is that such a bad thing?

Yes... there are several flaws in this idea that I haven't outlined workarounds for, and indeed I do have more to say on this topic, I unfortunately only have so much time to write and spend thinking about a holiday that won't be around for another 11 months. Remember, Christmas is about family and fun, not about keeping a tally. Any excuse to have fun is a good thing.

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