Why We Exchange Christmas Gifts


As a kid ripping the wrapping paper off my Dream Veterinarian Barbie, Barbie Camper or pretty much any Christmas present, I never questioned why.

All I could question was whether, buried under the stack of gifts I had to open, I might find a Mod Hair Ken doll, so Barbie could finally date.

Christmas really is for children. Children don’t question gifts; they just enjoy them. Why ruin a perfectly grand tradition by asking why this whole “giving gifts at Christmas” thing started in the first place?

Because I am now a jaded adult, that’s why.

I know the three Wise Men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, and that is why, Christians say, this tradition is now deeply embedded in the psyche of every American who braves Black Friday stampedes.

We can go with that, although, some historians argue gift-giving actually started as a December pagan practice that was later adopted by Christians, and blamed on those well-meaning Wise Men.

We could also take the truly cynical stance that all of this gift-exchange rigmarole exists because Americans completely commercialized the holiday and turned it into a giant greed fest.

That’s too cynical for me, even if there is a ring of truth to it.

Now, even as I write this, I wonder why I started questioning the tradition in the first place.

I have to remember that all of my adult life, I’ve squealed with delight when I received a package from Baton Rouge with gifts to me, from Santa, via my mother, who apparently picked them up for him. The elves don’t make a lot of food processors and such. I get it.

Do yourself a favor: don’t question long-held traditions like this, especially if they have ever brought you a glimmer of happiness. Stop over-thinking the joy out of everything.

Yes, we spend far too much money on gifts and wrapping supplies.

Yes, we often give and receive some downright stupid things. (Anyone need a set of “crazy cat lady” dish towels or a nutcracker that plays “Jingle Bells?”)

This is the holiday season.

This is the time of year when people really do seem to be on their best, or at least better, behavior.

This is a time of tradition, and the “Charlie Brown Christmas” special. This is no time to be negative, my friends.

Just let someone else have that up-close parking spot at the mall.

Smile, wear a reindeer sweater, have a candy cane and wrap a gift.

If it makes you feel better, give only frankincense, myrrh and gold.

If you really want to lose some cynicism, buy some gifts for a kid – or a few kids – or even a family in need.

The real tradition here is the giving, not so much the gifts.

Giving gets us out of ourselves, so we can focus on the joy we might bring to someone else.


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