Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas time is here again...

Christmas is again only days away and as always I’ve left the shopping to the last minute. Unlike previous efforts, I’ve put some planning into this year’s gifts and, frankly, think I’ve got some good ideas.

Still, I haven’t actually shopped yet. That’ll probably leave me continuing the ritual of recent years where I enjoy a few drinks at my suburban workplace’s Christmas Eve lunch, then stumble a short distance down the road to the local mega-mall and sober up by finding last minute presents. Who said it’s the thought that counts.

I do kinda resent the commercialisation of Christmas, and not just because I can’t afford it. I don’t resent forking out money for my loved ones – well I do a little – I don’t have to buy many, but having to find presents for multiple people at once can be damned stressful. I’d happily receive nothing, and have asked for as much from my family in years past, but they insist on getting something and, really, if I’m spending I may as well receive what I’m otherwise not buying, right?

My brother loves it all – the unnecessary presents, the energy-guzzling lights, the wasteful decorations – and probably thinks I’m somewhat of a Grinch. Sure I bemoan the commercialisation and I still have vivid memories of my days in retail, seeing the madness of these last few days bring out some of the worst in people, fighting over who was first in line to make a purchase of a product that will be presented to a loved one as a symbol of appreciation and selflessness.

But really, I do love this time of year. I’m catching up with most of my friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in some time; and I’ve been in touch with others across the world.

In that sense, it’s a wonderful and unique time to celebrate friendship and community. It’s just a shame about Christmas Day itself – a drawn out, exhausting effort to make small talk with relatives I see less than a handful of times a year.

But let’s be honest, it’s moved far from a religious celebration. I was raised as a good Catholic boy, but even growing up in a fairly religious family it felt more about Santa than Jesus.

Despite that, and that I’m generally not a religious person anymore at all, I don’t agree with the so-called politically correct path of removing references to Christmas in the festive season. It’s long been hijacked, and I doubt there’s any turning back from the secularisation. But that might just be a positive thing, celebrating all-inclusively, while those that choose can still celebrate the birth of Jesus. We just don’t need it to be so damn commercial.

Seeing the decorations up around shopping centres in October just makes me ill. Really, we need a quarter of the year leading into Christmas? No. Maybe we can throw Jesus a surprise birthday party one year. Just get together on the day without the fatigue of the lead-up and really enjoy ourselves like we didn’t know it was coming!

But, shopping aside – which I hope will only take an hour or two… - I will thoroughly enjoy the next few days. I will spend time with my closest friends, I will catch up with a couple I haven’t seen in over a year, I will enjoy the excitement of my young niece and nephew, I will talk to my brother in America, and I will send and receive many text messages on Christmas Day while having a hearty lunch with those loved ones I didn’t choose but love anyway.

And I am actually enjoying putting together a couple of these gifts – because this year I have put a little thought into it.

I think Jesus would be happy with that.

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