Tag: christmas

Christmas Presents

I hate Christmas shopping. I hate the whole culture of gift-giving in general, especially when there’s an expectation of reciprocation, which is especially true on Christmas.

One year I proposed to a borther that we should agree not to buy each other presents (“My present to you is that you don’t have to buy a present for me”). My mom overheard this proposal and wailed, “But you can’t do that!”, with such urgency that I never again suggested it. I didn’t want to be seen as “that guy” and her outburst made it clear to me that I would be seen that way, so for twenty years I’ve been dutifully buying Christmas presents for the family, and, after my mom remarried a guy with five children of his own, for the step-family as well.

I made the best of a bad situation, and I admit that I did feel driven to buy good and thoughtful gifts, and took satisfaction from doing so. But, on the whole, I never liked it, always considered it a burden, and always hoped someday I’d get out of it.

My problem with gift-giving is that it’s so damn dramatic. People say the person who receives the gift should be grateful for even getting a gift; if it’s a bad gift you’re no worse off, right? Except that bull.

First of all, when gifts are given with the expectation of reciprocation, you very well might be worse off, because you spent time and money on their gift.

But more insidiously, gifts are not always borne out of generosity. Oftentimes gift-giving is done as a way to manipulate, test, embarrass, or otherwise exert power over the receiver. Gift-giving can be malicious.

Unfortunately, in my family, gifts of malice are quite common.

This year, for various reasons (including recession and starting a new business) my family called off the regular gift exchange and had a Secret Santa drawing instead. I’ve always hated the Secret Santas we used to have in the extended family (it’s bad enough shopping for someone I know well, now I have to get something for an obscure cousin-in-law), and didn’t want to participate in this one, but with some difficulty and luck I was able to swap draws with my sister, who drew me. And so, with no regular gift exchange and having effectively removed myself from the Secret Santa, I was now free of obligation to buy anyone a present.

And it was the best Christmas ever.

There is a much longer version of this post, including details of some of the malicious gifting, here. I probably will come off looking like a whiny loser if you read the whole thing. You probably would have to have grown up in my family to understand.

It’s too bad Mr. T wasn’t around when Jesus was born

We’ll have to examine the situation at the time of Jesus’ birth to explain why it’s too bad Mr. T wasn’t around then.

Right around Jesus’ due date, Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem for the census so they can be numbered among the house of David, and they get there only to find out the inn lost their reservation, so now they’re forced to stay in a stable (or rather, a cave doubling as a stable). While they’re there, they give birth to the Messiah, and a new star appears in the sky. So we have this child, laid to rest in Mary’s lap, shepherds are watching him, angels are singing to him, people are hasting to bring him laud, etc., etc.

Meanwhile, these wise guys in the East see this new star in the sky and believe that it means a new powerful king has been born. So in a major feat of ass-kissing unparalleled to this day (well, at least until Harriet Myers came onto the scene), they decide they’re not going to wait around till he ascends the throne, they’re gonna pay him homage now, before the rush. So they get their slaves and harem packed up and on the road to Bethlehem to meet this new infant king. (Well, actually, first they stop in Jerusalem to visit Puppetking Herod: an event that would end up casting serious doubt onto the appropriateness of the label “wise men”, but never mind that for now.)

Now, when the wise men finally find the infant king, what do they see? Not some wealthy aristocratic family, but rather these destitute young parents who were sleeping with the animals (not that way, you sicko).

Here’s my question: these (dubious) wise men were obviously very wealthy. If you’re very wealthy, and really want to pay homage to a newborn king in such a deplorable situation, instead of giving gold, frankincense, and myrrh, how about putting them up in a nice place for the night?

I mean, we all know Bethlehem was inundated with people who wanted to flaunt their “Official Member of the House of David, as recognized by Caesar” certificates, so they could go around holding their head high while saying, “My kid could be the Messiah”. But, come on, I’m sure a couple rich wise guys could swing some accommodations in a nice upscale hotel even then.

Balthazar, Caspar, and Melchor need to take a lesson from Mr. T, a true wise man, speaking about Katrina victims: “They didn’t want diamond rings or new houses, they just wanted water, and they couldn’t get any.” I think Mr. T would pity these “wise” fools. Too bad he wasn’t around when Jesus was born.

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