Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Two months of being pulled into stores with 50% storewide sales and the cheesy (but classic) Christmas songs that we all hate to love playing everywhere.
The image of Christmas is not complete without a Christmas tree, under which lay a line of gifts waiting to be ripped open. In the past, giving gifts on Christmas meant something. You bought gifts for your friends and family because you love them and want to show them that you appreciate them.
In more recent times however, gift-giving on Christmas has become a stressful endeavour.
THE CASE AGAINST SECRET SANTA
To make gift-giving more “exciting”, someone decided to invent the phenomenon we know today as Secret Santa. In today’s world, Secret Santa has made its place in the modern workplace. If you work in an office, chances are that you have, willingly or not, been a part of this annual office tradition.
In larger offices, you could be Secret Santa to Susan from Accounting, even though you work in the IT department. Basically, it could be someone you barely talk to, except for the occasional exchanges of “Good morning” and “Goodbye”. I mean sure, if Susan happens to like my gift, she’d greet me a little more cheerily for a week, but then what?
Having a Secret Santa, in a lot of cases, means buying a gift for someone you don’t know too well. And I hate when that happens because it’s hard enough buying the perfect gift for a friend, let alone buying a gift for someone I’m not close to. I mean, that’s a lot of pressure. I certainly don’t want them to remember me as that person who got them a shitty gift for the rest of their lives.
A couple of years back, a friend of mine received a bottle of cider from her Secret Santa. She’s Muslim.
More often that not, Secret Santa gifts don’t come from the heart. And that’s because we just don’t care to please someone we don’t care about.
In last year’s Secret Santa affair, another friend of mine received a box of fridge magnets from her secret santa. Yes, fridge magnets.
Clearly this Santa wasn’t interested in spreading the joy of gift-giving that year.
Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy buying gifts. But I want to buy gifts for people because I want to, not because of a tradition I am forced to partake in.
IS IT AN OBLIGATION?
It’s not just Christmas. We present people with gifts on birthdays, housewarmings, graduations, weddings… the list is endless.
There’s an enigmatic beauty about gift-giving. Gift-giving, by its definition is not an obligation. Gifts are items given without the expectation of getting anything in return. They are symbolic representations of relationships and tokens of appreciation.
To some people, gift-giving is a main language of love.
My dad has always made it a point to bring a bottle of Coke or a box of chocolates to a relative or friend’s home every time he visits. To him, it’s a way of appreciating the host for their hospitality. But for that reason, he’s noticed that his friends have become obliged to get him something every time they visit us too. Which isn’t exactly a bad thing, but it does create a silly ‘new tradition’ where we continue to buy gifts not out of appreciation, but because we are expected to do so.
Let’s just take birthdays for example. If you’re invited to someone’s birthday, you’re expected to bring a gift. It doesn’t matter how well you know this person. Showing up empty-handed is not an option.
How many of us have been invited to a birthday and brought a box of Ferrero Rocher as a present? A box of Ferrero Rocher screams “I don’t know you but I was forced into coming here so here you go.”
It doesn’t hold meaning and goes against everything a gift is supposed to stand for.
MAKE IT SPECIAL AGAIN
I’m not saying that Secret Santa is a shit practice, or that we should limit ourselves to buying gifts only for the people we truly like. But when gift-giving becomes an obligation, it starts to feel like a chore.
If gift-giving was meant to bring people together, it’s lost its purpose in recent years. Instead of being excited to buy things, we find ourselves in a state of panic as we realise we don’t know what to get.
Maybe it’s time we stopped to think about why we were giving a gift before actually giving it. Are we gifting because we don’t want to feel embarrassed? Do we expect something back in return? Or are we giving it simply because we want to see the other party happy?
(Header Image Credit: @kadh on Unsplash)