I love gifts. I love giving them, and I love receiving them. I love hunting them down around town, trying to find just the right sentiment for just the right person. I love making gifts specifically for a certain individual. I love wrapping them in reused gift wrap, or in shiny new gift bags. Gift giving is the sauce. So when people decry Christmas as an over-commercialized, materialistic, capitalist holiday, I feel slightly wounded.
Growing up, Christmas was never just about the gifts. Christmas was a magical, glowing heart in the middle of the dark, unyielding winter. There were cookies to bake, ornaments to make and hang, and seemingly unlimited Christmas specials to watch repeatedly. I know it's cliche to say so, but Christmas was a manifestation of magic for me. My mom had me convinced that Santa's elves were out and about, checking Mr. Claus' naughty'n'nice list one last time, and tinkling bells were evidence of the elves presence. Gifts were merely a cherry on top of my month-long magic sundae.
I never quite understand why those who deride the giving of gifts don't simply opt out, or change their own gift giving and getting habits. This year, I set a limit on the money I'd spend on gifts for each person, choosing tokens that were more of 'toppers' than anything else. Then, I baked three types of sweets and tucked them inside tins and placed each memento on top. Next year, I might not spend anything, or I might not bake anything. The point is that no one is twisting my arm to engage in gift giving. I choose to participate because I absolutely revel in the delight of the receivers, and in the winter months, we all need a bit of cheer.
A sour friend once snarled, "why only at Christmas? Why only once a year?". I view the holidays as such: I love cheesecake, and will usually pick it over any other dessert, but it's a special treat. If I ate it everyday, or even every week, it would cease to be satisfying. Instead of looking forward to a creamy treat, I would probably start gagging at the thought of one more serving. Christmas is a rich, delicious treat. I look forward all year to savoring every carol and light filled moment, just as I look forward to constructing the perfect Halloween costume, or planning the perfect vacation. Gift giving or receiving is only what you make of it.