After a day full of shopping, and scratching the last person off of my gift list, I came home to find my neighbor sitting on his porch and smoking a cigarette. He smiled and waved, taking a long drag as he planted his eyes on my arms full of shopping bags. "Did you go Christmas shopping?" he asked in a thick European accent. I don't know too much about the guy, other than he moved from Germany to the United States a little over a year ago.
After I replied with "Yes," he quickly snapped, "We don't do that anymore." I assumed he meant Christmas, concluding that maybe he celebrates Hanukkah, or not any holiday at all. Intrigued and slightly confused, I pushed a bit further, asking him, "So you don't celebrate Christmas?"
He paused, took another puff of his cigarette, and explained that yes, he does celebrate Christmas, but in his family they do not exchange presents. He added that presents "make everything too stressful" and "they would rather focus on good food and being together as a family."
For me, giving gifts is my favorite part of the holiday. Truly, it is. I put aside money months before in anticipation, and I begin to stake out items my friends and family will enjoy, long before the big day hits. Of course, there are also people who can be unappreciative -- making them a bit of a chore to shop for. But for the most part, I live for it, and I don't mind that my pocket book takes a major hit.
But not all people find joy in giving Christmas presents. For some it's an obligation, a duty, and an added expenditure they definitely do not need. Others see the whole idea of Christmas gifts as greedy and unnecessary -- feeding our society's "give me" culture. In this regard, Christmas presents can become the ultimate burden and bring a great deal of stress.
"I made a decision a few years ago to stop doing Christmas presents because the whole idea seems uncalled for," says Krissie, a 28-year-old from California. "The only problem is, not everyone is on the same page as me, so I tend to feel like a jerk."
And therein lies the paradox -- those who don't give gifts usually are judged because of it. So with all this in mind, should we exchange Christmas presents at all?
For me, as long as it's financially viable, I will always give Christmas gifts -- but only because it's something I love. But wouldn't it be better if we didn't expect presents? If we didn't have to see "Gifts For Her" and "Gifts For Him," plastered on every advertisement? If the focus was shifted to togetherness and partaking in a holiday feast? That would be ideal.
With Christmas right around the corner, let's encourage quality time over gifts, because that's what the holidays should truly be about.