Happy holidays?

Posted 11/25/95

Well, gee Uncle John, are you ready for the holidays?

Uncle John's Answer:

That depends, Billy. If you mean to ask if I am emotionally ready to pause my life to celebrate the coming of another holiday season, then I suppose the answer is "yes." But if you really want to know if I have made all the necessary preparations such as getting all the gifts I plan to bestow upon my friends and family, I have to answer in the negative. I have the same problem every year. I really like to give my favorite people things that will please them or things they need. And although I do feel that a lot of the gift giving that is undertaken this time of year is driven by peer pressure (and as with every other "holiday," by Hallmark), the winter holiday is a good time for this sort of thing, if for no other reason than long-standing tradition. It lets all of us focus our gift giving at a single point in the year. So be it.

My difficulty lies in trying to select gifts for ea in trying to select gifts for each individual which are unique in that they are appropriate to the receiver, and at the same time convey some of my personality. Tools and software are good choices for me, since I can select useful examples from both categories. Music is a good choice sometimes, although the subjective nature of music appreciation can make selection difficult, even for close friends. Clothing is generally out, since I have no taste and no sense of fashion. I could give everyone jeans, but I am not organized enough to have everyone's size remembered or written down. Appliances are good occasionally, but are too expensive. I can't afford new VCR's for everyone. Books are nice, but they are just as difficult to pick out as music.

The hard part in all of this is trying to select something for each person that they can use or enjoy, but that they don't already have. It is considered to be in poor taste to simply ask everyone what they want, but it is about the only way to be sure of giving them something they will enjoy. Gift certificates are also somewhat "frowned upon" as a lazy way out, unless they are for someone we really don't know very well. Besides, gift certificates force the receiver to go out and face the post holiday hordes intent on pre-inventory bargains or returns of ugly ties and sweaters. There is no joyous instant gratification with gifts which are only really "IOU's." After all, hoot; After all, how much fun is it for everyone to sit around the tree on Christmas morning ripping open brightly colored cards and comparing gift certificates? I'm afraid that the secure knowledge that each person will eventually be delighted with their gift does not offset the temporary let down that a moment like this could provide. Then there is the gift of cash, usually in the form of a check.

This tried and true staple of grandparents and uncles everywhere, although always appreciated, conveys even less emotion than the carefully chosen gift certificate. (Not to put down those slightly distant relatives as uncaring scrooges. They have realized all along that there is but one solution to the dilemma which I am currently facing). The real reason we give gifts after all is to convey the notion to those we give them to that we do indeed care about them. Gifts are a physical manifestation of love and caring. This only places more pressure on everyone. How to show our great love for our favorite people without going severely into debt? There is no good answer.

I guess it would all be easier if we all just bought the things we needed, and used the holidays as a chance to simply spend time with one another. But that wouldn't be any fun, would it? There is a real sense of accomplishment in surviving the "29 shopping days 'till Christmas" with our sanity intact while still successfully procuring giftully procuring gifts which make people smile. And for all of us to go through that fairly challenging ordeal is the real expression of love.

Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 by John M. Meyer. All rights reserved. The Alien Mind is not associated with any earthly company or its products.

Got somethin' to say about this essay?
Shout at the Alien