Besides being neither a Christian nor a consumerist, I’ve never been a fan of Christmas. The spirit of joy and selfless giving are welcome memes, but they are slogans and platitudes. As an exercise in altruism, giving is rarely selfless. It’s more often tit for tat. Don’t reciprocate giving something to someone who’s given to you, and you’ll see my point. I won’t deny that I witness people in greater joy in the season—some people; neither will I deny the offsetting despair and malaise—the stress of maintaining face and keeping up with the Joneses. The higher rates of seasonal suicides might be a sign.
Christmas is a marketing scheme. If you need something, or if you have kids and they need something or want something that you’d like them to have and can afford it, just get it. Why wait? Why make them wait? It seems pointless and cruel. And this doesn’t even take into account the parents who manipulate their children but threaten withholding at Christmas if they don’t comply with whatever family or societal edicts you are trying to impose upon them.
Economically, gift-giving is what’s known as a deadweight loss. In most cases, the gift of cash allows the recipient to spend it in a manner optimal to their own situation. If they happen to buy the same jumper you would have purchased, then you can feel comforted by your knowing that you would have given the same thing. Perhaps you found the perfect item on some distant shore that they wouldn’t have visited. This is an exception. But a gift from Amazon or Best Buy doesn’t fit that bill.
If I want to give a gift, I will. If it’s coincident with a birthday or a holiday, so be it. But if it’s not, that’s fine, too. As humans in the West, we are already so indentured to too many things to count that we don’t need another fetter. Put up a tree. Put up a menorah. Put up a flag. Put up an Anubis statuette. Unfortunately, the lines are blurred between wanting to and having to.
In the end, Christmas is one performance I’d like to opt out of. Whilst I find that most people are hypocrites, the hypocrisy is trebled during the holidays. ‘Tis the season.