Something is fundamentally wrong with Christmas!

(or, insert your favorite gift-giving holiday here)

Holidays are an issue on which people are pretty widely distributed: you love them; you hate them; you don't see what all the fuss is about; you think they're being destroyed by big media, by consumerism, whatever. The point is, lots of people like Christmas, and lots of people have good reasons to be cynical about it.

I'm writing from the point of view of one who thinks presents are cool, but is it really worth all the bother? In other words, as a college student. In the first paragraph I made some lameass attempt to be neutral about which holiday I'm talking about, but it's just easier to write Christmas and let you translate later, since that is in fact the holiday my family celebrates.

My gut feeling about Christmas, and one I share with lazy people around the world, is this: I look forward to it every year, but when Christmas season rolls around I remember that I always forget (read: don't bother) to get anything for anyone until the last minute. Then I feel bad that everyone else got me these nice things I mostly like, and I've let them down by not being on the ball. So maybe I see my friend and give him something the next day; since I didn't see him on Christmas I can pretend I had it ready on time. Maybe he's doing the same; who knows? Anyway, I spend the whole two months of Christmas season dreading the inevitable Christmas Eve Fiasco, so it ends up not being as enjoyable as I remember it.

But I know I am not alone! Many other people do the same thing, or end up being pressured into buying presents they don't think are good enough, to conform to the American standard. And these people ask, as I have often asked, "Why bother? What is this stupid holiday for and why can't I get out of it? It only exists to improve the bottom line of toy producers and retail outlets." And this is all true. There are some people who celebrate Christmas because Christ was the son of God, but they're in the minority these days. So the holiday boils down to spending a moderate-to-large sum of money on friends, family, and acquaintances, and receiving (on average) an equally expensive amount of stuff you don't really like very much. So what's the point? Why not spend the money on yourself, so you can get something you actually want? Or cancel Christmas and save 5% of America's GNP for something less frivolous? You could just give money, of course, so that everyone gets what they want, but that works out to the same thing, assuming everyone gives equal amounts.

And this is all well and good, as far as it goes. Christmas is a constructed holiday that is supported by society as a whole, even though it creates a net loss in fiscal value for consumers. But the beauty of it is that it makes us think about the aforementioned friends, family, and acquaintances when we shop for them, and it gives us an excuse to take a vacation from work, a break from school and be with them, to catch up on their lives. We have to think about what X would really like for Christmas, and if we do it right we end up with something we can be really proud of, whether we buy it in a store or make it ourselves. And they'll at least pretend to like it, so that feeling doesn't get crushed. Likewise, when you open your present from X, you see that they know you well enough to get you something that really reflects who you are, or at least liked you enough to make the effort.

And then, five years from now, when you happen across an old Christmas present, you will remember who you were back then, and what your life was like. Memory is the most precious gift of all.

So, after reading this, you can go on celebrating Christmas as you always have, or keep on humbugging it, or turn over a new leaf and give this Christmas thing a try. Maybe I'll go back to my old ways, or maybe I'll participate a little more actively this year. But that's your choice. Nobody will stop you, whatever you do. But know, at least, that there's a reason of some kind; it's not completely stupid.

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