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Friday, December 31, 2010

A Christmas reflection...

Hello and happy holidays to everyone,

Throughout this holiday season I have been reflecting on wealth and the value of presents. I am currently unemployed, so I used fabric scraps, yarn I already had, and supplies from thrift stores to make presents for people, I also made jelly from my parents fruit tree's to give out. I also purchased Christmas cards from a thrift store; fifty cents for a package of twenty. All in all, I sent out Christmas cards to 15 people and made presents for another 15 or so and spent under twenty dollars. It was very satisfying to figure out presents for everyone that I care about without spending money that I just can't afford to spend.

But the societal pressures of the holiday here in the United States still made me feel as if I needed to go to the store and buy brand new fancy presents for everyone. The commercialization of the various holidays has created a system in which we must go out and shop for our family and friends to prove that we care about them. Consider for instance, jewelry commercial's imply that the only appropriat way to show love for a significant other is through the purchasing of diamond and gold.

My homemade jelly, which I made from fruit trees in my parents backyard, seems to me to be a better and more personal gift than a CD. But as I was giving them out I continually felt a bit inadequate. As if my time was not as a good a present as a present bought with my money would be. Which is ironic because I spent more time making gifts than I would have had to spend earning money to buy Christmas gifts.

And then as we got closer to Christmas, I was surprised - as I am every year - by the sheer number of presents under our tree. By U.S. standards, we are not a rich family. We cannot afford vacations in far off distance lands, we do not have multiple houses, nor could I afford college without taking more loans than I would have liked. So in that regard we are not well off, on the other hand we have multiple boxes of Christmas ornaments to choose from and we can afford a nice tree and presents for our family and friends (excepting my handmade presents).

After Christmas people often ask what you got? They do not ask what you did or who you spent your holiday celebrations with. Because the apparent meaning of Christmas is getting presents, not about spending time with family... I mean, opening presents is wonderful and I truly enjoy it, I think everyone does honestly. But sometimes instead of another necklace, I think it would be nice to know that money did something beyond purchasing me more jewelry that was made in China, or the equivalent, by an underpaid and mistreated worker.

Sometimes, I look at presents and think about the person who made it and what their life must be like. I wonder if they could afford something like that for themselves or their family for their own celebrations. I imagine their closet, which is likely much smaller than my own. I watched a documentary on the Tuva in an anthropology class a few years back and a daughter was visiting her family for a two week holiday, she brought with her a small shopping bag. A shopping bag held all she needed for two weeks. Her luggage was smaller than my bag of Christmas presents.

I just have been thinking of all that I have even while I am an unemployed recent college graduate and am very grateful for all that I have, so I need to remember that on a daily basis.

And I hope my reflections have made you think as well...

1 comment:

  1. One year I received a Christmas gift of $75. A small fortune back then for me. I went out and bought baking supplies and make cookies for my circle of family and friends.

    Homemade presents are the best kind.