In this, the month of the crowded malls and shopping lists, the thought arises: ‘Why do we do this to ourselves?’ Perhaps it’s years of tradition—within the family, amongst friends, in the workplace. This annual ritual, of buying oneself into the depths of debt to slap on some color to the facade we choose to maintain for some odd reason, seems more a rote exercise in action than a conscious choice of will.
What specific significance does this yearly pursuit carry when each one of us surely realizes it’s been a self-imposed obligation for longer than we’d care to know? I’m first to admit I’ve never been the traditionalist, in any sense, which is all the more reason I tend to find scheduled periods of gift-giving routine, uncreative, and a bit forced. Much like the box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day or the bouquet of flowers on Mother’s Day, the gift at Christmas is quite expected, and, at least in my eyes, isn’t quite as special as a gift that comes unannounced.
Traffic congestion, crowded stores, long lines, and all-around noise are enough to add unwanted levels of stress to our lives at this time of year, but the most stressful factor, which usually persists for some time after the holidays, is the hit we take on our bank account. We usually spend more on each gift than is prudent, believing price is the deciding factor in demonstrating our love or appreciation of the recipient. Often times, said recipient does the same and spends more than they’re really able to afford, again, in an attempt to prove themselves to us. What you have in the end, in this example, are two parties who have spent entirely too much trying to validate themselves in each others’ eyes, with no real need to do so. All that would be needed to circumvent this scenario is sincere communication between people, who are sensitive to one another, and who would not find fault or embarrassment in having enough concern for the other by laying out limits in tough times, and by declaring one’s appreciation for the other with a kind word. In this day, we’ve grown reliant on the weight of the dollar to do our talking. Perhaps telling someone how much we care and appreciate them is difficult for many of us, it summons more open displays of emotion and vulnerability. But mastering such a feat surely has rewards worth seeking, and can make a more potent statement to that person we love.
J. González Solorio