Giving the Best Gift

What do July 4th, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve have in common—other than the obvious, of course, which is that they’re all holidays? One word: Excess. Too many fireworks, too much food, too many presents, too much alcohol, too much this, too many that. Holidays are great excuses to be excessive. But what’s wrong with excess? Let’s take a look at Christmas, the most excessive of the culprits.

During Christmas, we expound upon the typical mantra “Bigger is better” and say, “We don’t just want bigger; we also want MORE.” Our children want MORE toys, our boyfriends and husbands want MORE electronics, our dads want MORE tools, our moms want MORE jewelry, and our friends want MORE scented lotions and bottles of wine. And we’re perfectly happy to buy and give more because hey, it’s Christmas! A tree with only a couple presents under it looks pathetic; we would much rather have the presents be so numerous that the bottom half of the tree is obscured and no one can walk within a five-foot radius of the tree.

Of course, I might be exaggerating a bit (perhaps I’m being a bit excessive?), but you have to admit there is a certain truth to this scenario—OK, maybe not in your family, but certainly in that of your friends, your neighbors, or your co-workers.

I’d be lying if I said a part of me doesn’t love the excessiveness of it all. I love the clothes, the iPods and iPads and accessories, the sparkling jewels, just everything. I love that when I open presents with my parents and brothers it takes us almost three hours because there is just so much to open. But is that all I love about Christmas? Of course not, though I wouldn’t want a Christmas without the gifts either. Let me use a moment from this past Christmas as a good illustration why: my six-year-old cousin Madison, like most girls her age, loves fairytales. She’s a proper modern day princess if I’ve ever seen one, and that’s one of the most endearing things about her. My mom bought Maddy a create-your-own-fairytale storybook, one that came with blank pages, markers and stickers so the little girl lucky enough to receive this awesome gift could make her own story. It was a simple gift, one that doesn’t walk or talk or use batteries, but Maddy absolutely loved it. As soon as she opened the book she plopped herself down in the corner and started her own story about princesses and dragons and all the action and romance that come along with them.

Giving gifts doesn’t need to be about excess because it only takes one great gift to evoke a smile, a laugh, or a tear (the good kind, of course). Giving and getting gifts shouldn’t be about spending the most money or tearing apart the most wrapping paper; it should be about the meaning behind the gifts, the physical evidence of the bonds we share with others. It’s nice to give something to another person that is meaningful and that tells that person, yes, I actually know you and listen to you when you talk! Anyone can give a bottle of vodka or a coffee mug. Christmas should be about finding that gift that elicits a greater response than just, “Oh, how nice.” Forget “bigger is better” or “more is better”, because to be honest neither is good for anyone or for the environment. MORE presents just means MORE resources, MORE energy and, in the case of Christmas, MORE wrapping paper and MORE bows which is MORE trash.

Let’s forget the ideals of consumerism and remember the real joy of Christmas.