Sunday, December 11, 2005

What I don't love about Christmas

Now that I've written about what I love about this time of year, I feel free to jot down just a couple of Christmas gripes. I hope that in my previous post I established myself squarely in the Christmas lovers' camp so that no one will think me a Scrooge.

Gifts. I don't like gifts. Or rather, let me say first: I love gifts for children. I love to shop for children. I love their priceless excitement when presents are first placed under the tree. I love how they play with their gifts and occasionally tear a piece of wrapping paper, hoping and at the same time hoping not to find out what might be in there. I love, love, love watching children open gifts. It's delightful! But there oughta be a law against gift exchanges among adult people. My mom says someone should start a movement where only books are exchanged as gifts at Christmas. I think she may be on to something there. But really, I'd like to go the moratorium route. In Friday's Wall Street Journal Daniel Akst writes so convincingly on this topic in his commentary "Please, No More Presents." I love this: "But if the process of gift-giving is familiarly fraught, hardly anyone talks about the complex--and, until now, silent--agonies of being on the receiving end, which in my view are incomparably worse. It's time to come out with it; the biblical injunction about the superiority of giving over receiving contains more truth than anyone so far has been willing to admit. ... No, the real problem is that presents, no matter how thoughtful or well intended, are inherently burdensome. I can't shake the sense that they come tightly wrapped in a foil of guilt, with ribbons of obligation, imposing more discomfort and inconvenience than delight on both sides of the transaction. It was to spare myself as much as my friends that I talked my then-fiancée into putting 'no gifts' right on our wedding invitations (we already had two of everything by then anyway)."

There is another problem I'm finding this year with Christmas that is interfering with the peaceful, kind-hearted feeling I normally have throughout the season. It's the whole "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas" thing. Evidently there are people so outraged that some stores are saying "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" that they are boycotting these stores. People, that is just plain wrong. This is Christmas! The time of brotherly love! It does annoy me when people say "Happy Holidays" but lets just reply "Merry Christmas" and move on.

What I am currently bothered by is the grim determination of my daughters' public school to mention no holiday at all, let alone Christmas. It's become a nasty word or something. Truly, I think teachers would be more shocked to hear children say "Merry Christmas" to one another than some foul, vulgar word. I've been helping organize the "Winter" party for Georgie's class. One mother suggested we do a beach party theme so as to entirely avoid the whole "holiday" thing. That didn't fly, thank heavens. For a craft I suggested making a tree ornament. That's what Lidia did in her other school. They looked at me like I had said something inappropriate, or rather didn't look at me. They said that would be "too holiday" and quickly changed the subject. I then suggested painting cookies and that went over much better. However, there was concern about finding cookie shapes that are not "too holiday," as well as concern over the colors red and green. To tell you the truth, I felt like these ladies were speaking another language. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Some friends of ours had their children at The Blake School, a very expensive secular private school in Minneapolis. My friend and another mom were annoyed that the Holiday concert did not contain one single Christian song. They were all Hannukah or secular. In a quiet little moment of defiance, the other mom made some church-shaped cookies for the after-concert treats. There was a big hue and cry. The other parents were outraged, simply outraged. My friends eventually removed their children from that school, partially because the culture there was too liberal.

I understand that public school districts do not want to offend the aetheists and non-Christians. But what I don't understand is why Christmas must then be taboo. There is another wonderful opinion piece in the WSJ that contains the following quote: "An Afghan-born Muslim friend of ours likes to say 'Merry Christmas' every chance he gets, and believes that many immigrants of all persuasions enthusiastically do the same in their adopted land: 'Coming from societies with ancient histories and cultures and traditions, they have a deep appreciation for religious holidays,' he explains, 'and the more observant, the deeper their appreciation.'"

Here, here! I am so worried that we will obliterate, at least publicly, our beautiful Christmas. And to what end?


Montserrat said...

I agree with your Mom, books are a great gift! But then again, I'm so picky with what I read, maybe cash would be better? :D I just don't like all the commercialism at Christmastime, give me a good old-fashioned Christmas- family, good food, singing carols, few gifts.

Athena said...

I usually get books for Christmas. I think giving books is a good idea too, although you'll be surprised what adult would rather not receive em. I give my husband hints throughout the year what books I like to get and he's the same, only that he hints to the children. I don't mind the adult gift giving, maybe because it's only my husband and I--we're so far away from family. The only thing we usually give as a gift to our adult family members (and even their children) is a family photo. I like to make or purchase a Christmas ornament for my visit n teaching ladies and friends. You know, maybe we ought to do some kind of ornament, card or photo exchange between our online blogger friends.

Athena said...

I visited your blog yesterday when you had another Hepburn pic up, and I thought it really was you! You know, if you grew your hair alittle longer and darkened it, you would look like her. I think so. :-)

Ave said...

I wish I had the guts to email your "What I don't like about Christmas" article to my mother-n-law. It is a hilarious read, and I actually laughed out loud and said "Here, Here!" Maybe I think its particularly funny because I can see in my minds eye, you typing the whole thing up with one of your eyebrows arched very high. Kind of like Grampy Rx used to.