Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas: Family or Gifts?

Merry Christmas one and all. I hope you each had as much fun as we did.

Christmas Eve we had a friend over who works with me whose family is across the country and across the world. We had a fun evening of game playing and fellowship and corrupting her by teaching her to play one of my famiy's favorite games, Hand and Foot (a variation on Canasta for those who are unfamiliar with the game).

Christmas day, we had a big breakfast and then spent the morning getting ready for Christmas dinner and playing games while waiting for my brother and sister-in-law to drive in from her parents family (several hours away). We had a good British meal – roast and Yorkshire pudding – and then sang Christmas carols, read the Christmas story, and prayed as a family (these moments have always been my most favorite growing up – as long as those three things, or even just the reading and prayer time, occur, I have had Christmas)! Following that was presents and then more games ("dictionary" this year – my favorite word/made-up definition – “mummichug” – a Tibetan dance done by pregnant women!).

In my normal, daily life, I find it relatively easy - most of the time - to enjoy my life as it is, even with my parents half a world away. However, holidays away from my family are always the hardest time for me - as they are for most people - and so when I can actually be with them at Christmas, I could go without a single present because their presence is enough. However, not only did we get to be together, but we also did the great present exchange – much fun!

I love giving presents. Well, let me qualify that. I love giving presents to people who don't judge the value of the gift but accept the concept of what a gift is as being the most important. Growing up in a culture where one didn't even open a gift from someone else in front of that person because one does not want to betray even the slightest flicker of disappointment or ingratitude, I have learned the lesson that what a gift is does not matter (and trust me, I - and my family - have gotten some weird gifts over the years!); what does matter is that someone else thought of you and took the time to find/make something they thought you might like. And that is all that matters.

Now, I just know there are people out there who will twist around a concept like that and say then that "because you like writing, I could give you one sheet of piece of paper then and you should like it and that should be enough since that's all that matters." Obviously, though, if that individual's attitude was simply to prove a point, they would be approaching the whole gift-giving concept with the wrong attitude, which kills the whole concept. And that poisonous attitude is what can ruin presents (both giving and receiving).

In my personal opinion, if I had a friend give me a plain three-ring binder filled with blank paper which cost them maybe three dollars total because they knew that I enjoy writing and that I despise perfect-bound notebooks but can only write in spiral bound ones, or even if they gave me a perfect-bound notebook because they didn't know my insane writing preferences but knew I liked to write, that is an act of love. If someone spent $200 on me and bought me all sorts of stuff – maybe even stuff I wanted – and yet they were ungracious or unloving in their attitude towards me or my life the rest of the year, that “stuff” would become just that – “stuff” from someone who has a bad attitude – and therefore meaningless. I’ve even run into a situation where one individual is really good at buying gifts – just a talent that person has – but she is so critical of what others give her, that I have become paranoid and disgusted about the concept of exchanging gifts with her because it’s lost the fun aspect, the love aspect.

Fortunately, we did not have to deal with such attitudes this year, and so the time of presents was sweet not for all the presents but for the love shown through them.

And that is my Christmas summary and gift-giving rant.

I take family love over gifts any day!

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