starting over


On Christmas.

Clearly I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.

I grew up in a family that constantly strived to be normal, to fit in with the social norm. We wanted what everyone else wanted, we didn’t like what everyone else didn’t like. We were nobodies.

As harsh as I make it sound, I still loved those times I had growing up and following the traditions that everyone else had. I look forward to going home and watching the Christmas lights turn on at 8pm even though it wastes electricity, decorating the Christmas tree even though we don’t look at it and take it down in a weeks time, cooking Western food for a Western style Christmas dinner even though my mouth waters to think about my mom’s home-cooked Chinese food.

Does this sound strange? I think it does.

I was stressing this weekend of what to get for my family. One year my parents and I bought my brother a Sony Clie which he used for all of 6 months and now I never see him use it even though he claims he does. And it cost approximately $250. I debate for a long time what to get my cousins, whether to buy my parents anything, how much I should spend, what would they like, all those random materialistic questions that arise when gift-shopping. While bringing this up with A, he asked me if it was really worth it.

Is it worth it to spend money on these gifts? Do we really need them? Do we benefit from receiving monetary gifts from others? If it was something we wanted, really really wanted, would we not have gone out and bought it ourselves?

I think a new social norm needs to start. I think people need to stop giving gifts and start giving time. I learned this from A. It’s a very hard concept to swallow, because I get giddy when I buy a gift I think someone would love, and I take so much care into wrapping it that he thinks I’m crazy. But when you sit back and really think about it, it’s all so commercialized that it feels very phony. Deep deep deep down inside, that is what I think when I hand people their gifts. It’s very sad, I know.

How does this new trend start, then? I think our generation is too late in the game. I think the free-thinkers like A with this new concept in giving will be socially outcasted because we’re too based on materialism and it’s the dollar amounts that define the people we are. I see this in myself because while I want to embrace A’s new idea on giving, I can’t see it as something I would do for fear of the social norm.

What do you give, if at all, on Christmas to those you love? Is there a general understanding of the idea of gifts and monetary value that you’ve come to understand, and are you okay with it?

For Christmas, I would like to spend more time with friends. To engage in meaningful conversations on top of the daily “this is what I did”, “did you catch the lastest episode of [insert random tv show]“, “have you talked to [insert random name] lately”. Who can gift me this amazing gift for Christmas?

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9 Responses to “On Christmas.”

  1. November 30th, 2007 at 2:43 am

    NotImportant says:

    With all due respect, I don’t think that is what you really want for Christmas. You might think “meaningful conversations” and a “new social norm” are keys to a happier world, but they’re not. Because if they were, we would already be in it all the time. Think back at all the social gatherings you’ve been to in your life. When were you most happy? I bet they weren’t when you were having deep, serious conversations. I bet they were when you were just having fun with friends, quite possibly drinking, talking about gossip, and laughing at absolutely nothing at all. Now think back to all the Christmases and birthdays you’ve had. How did you feel when you were tearing away the gift wraps on your presents? I think we humans have this primal desire to be selfishly and lazily happy, and that is the rush you get from opening your presents, from just laughing about nothing with friends. Meaningful conversations are laden with intellectual and emotional baggage, quite taxing on the brain, and are best reserved for more academic and somber settings. We have the rest of the year for that, but in the holiday season, let’s just all be really, fully, meaninglessly happy. After all, it is “Merry Christmas!”

  2. November 30th, 2007 at 10:04 am

    tetleytee says:

    Interesting points raised. I do see your side of the argument too, and I believe a part of me wants that as well. Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that I don’t have many of these meaningful conversations during the whole of the year to begin with.

    So perhaps I shall change my wish. For Christmas, I’ll take the material goods and the drunken fun. For New Years, I’ll include this as a resolution. :)

    I’ve been guilty of my own words anyways, as I’ve still spent many days wondering what to get my family for Christmas. Bah.

  3. December 2nd, 2007 at 12:46 am

    steph says:

    Scott and I didn’t exchange Christmas gifts last year. Neither of us had very much $ and we chose to spend those limited funds on family members because we rarely see our families. He and I see each other frequently (now daily) and can show how we care by taking care of each other. Those others, on the other hand, are a different story.

    But now, as i plan to get gifts for people, I start to realize how sporadic my communication with my family is. How I rarely call them, and they NEVER call me. Or email me unless I’ve emailed first. Seems we’re all too busy in-fighting or living our lives to make that extra effort, and I’m guilty of that too.

    No kind of gift, no matter how nice and thoughtful, can make up for a year or lifetime of neglect. Uncle Sam wants you to spend lots of money to prove you love your family. But your family mostly just wants to know you care.

    Giving gifts to people is fun because they’re surprised and delighted…so I like to send surprise packages and cards throughout the year on random occasions instead of saving it all up for a day that’s less genuine and way less surprising. Christmas is better if I think of it as a gathering time, good food, gifts for the kiddies. I don’t know if that’s the new paradigm you’re looking for, but it’s all I’ve got for now.

  4. December 3rd, 2007 at 7:16 am

    Elaine says:

    I totally agree with you. My family hasn’t done the Christmas Gifts thing since I was a little kid. We had the tree in high school but that’s because I always insisted on having a “normal” Christmas back then. Which is part of the reason why we also have turkey on Christmas. The other part of that reason is that turkey is fricking tasty. Our dinners are never completely Westernized, there’s usually a vegetarian tofu thing or sushi floating around. And roast pork from the Chinese bbq place… mmm… anyway,
    I like that we don’t buy gifts for each other and just get together and spend hours eating.

    Also, our yearly high school friends get together is THE highlight of my Christmas. It’s great to connect with the people I care about the most and just… hang out for a few hours and catch up. It’s nice that we started off with the secret santa thing because we were too poor to buy everyone gifts and it just evolved into “well, gifts aren’t really that important”.

    I think gifts are totally overrated. I suggested to Nathan that we just give each other a list of things we were going to buy for ourselves anyway, so that everyone would end up with something they needed, or at least wanted a whole lot. But apparently that ruins the magic of Christmas or something.

    Nathan’s sister-in-law donated to charity on behalf for us last Christmas and I thought that was an awesome gift (though no one else agrees). I think that would be a nice one. I think if you donate to WWF they also send you a polar bear toy or something, in case the people on your list are materialistic :)

  5. December 3rd, 2007 at 7:18 am

    Elaine says:

    Oh and note to NotImportant:
    I am happiest when having a serious conversation with someone. It’s hard to find someone to have a serious, intellectual conversation with and it’s great exercise for the brain. As fun as drinking with your buddies is, it’s not hard to come by and it kills brain cells.

  6. December 3rd, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    tetleytee says:

    Yeah, when I come home for Christmas I really look forward to spending time with family and friends. I’m most happy when I get to sit and talk to people about their life and their goals because I don’t get to see my friends much anymore, so I can’t relate much to the every day conversations. I’m really blessed knowing that people still consider me important enough to spend time with them during the busy holiday season.

  7. December 3rd, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Annia says:

    Soo… speaking of spending time with friends over the holidays, I would love to go to that wings place with you! Assuming I know which one you’re thinking of… :P

  8. December 8th, 2007 at 8:44 am

    clo says:

    tee where are you?

  9. December 10th, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    chengy says:

    hey thx for having me!

    i don’t get my very close friend anything for… anything. well i just buy him stuff sometimes, but usually we don’t get each other anything. i think it’s good that we have the understanding. i buy other people stuff but i think when we’re super tight we don’t need to go through all that formality.

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