All I want for Christmas

In 1946 Don Gardner published the song ‘All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth’.

By Angel Wyrwas

In 1946 Don Gardner published the song ‘All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth’. Sung by many different artists over the years, the song conveys a desire for a child to have their front teeth grow back in so it would be easier to speak once more. What a truly simple wish.

During past holiday seasons I have heard many people complain about the commercialism of Christmas and the excess of the holiday. This year is no different. “I hate going Christmas shopping, it’s all just junk.” “I don’t have time to shop, I’ll just get some gifts cards.” “Everyone already has everything, I don’t know what they need.”

Gift giving has been around in some form or another as long as humans have been around. It happens in every culture, in every corner of the world.  Gift giving is done for many different reasons. Some gifts are given to attract a mate, some are given to show charity or express gratitude. Other gifts are given as a show of prosperity and governments even give gifts as a sign of peace and goodwill. These reasons tell of the world’s desire to express their emotions through the giving of gifts.

Christmas definitely magnifies emotion. The hope of humanity’s best calls many people to want to share their feelings with others in a tangible way. The magi, the three wise men, traveled a great distance to bestow Jesus with Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh to show their adoration.

Those first Christmas gifts were thoughtfully chosen to magnify the miracle of Christ’s birth. Frankincense was a perfume used in Jewish worship and, as a gift, it symbolized that people would worship Jesus. Gold was associated with kings and Christians believe that Jesus is the King of Kings. Myrrh was a perfume that was put on dead bodies to make them smell nice and, as a gift, it symbolized that Jesus would suffer and die.

Yet, 2000 years later, Christmas gift giving has been commercialized and vilified. Or maybe that happened sometime after the industrial revolution when the ability to acquire more ‘stuff’ became more accessible? Margaret Deland wrote quite a bit about the topic in a 1904 edition of Good Housekeeping. She writes, “The degradation of Christmas giving, which has lately become so marked— foolish folk bestowing presents which they do not want to give, upon other folk who do not want to receive them. “

But here we are a century later and still giving gifts. Why? Commentators say that it’s the advertising, the commercialization and societal pressure. Yet I hazard to say that businesses are just doing their job, to sell their products the best they can. There is not necessarily evil intent to offer a product to the consumer. People are not required to purchase ‘stuff’ to satisfy some legal requirement.

When I was growing up there were several years money was tight in our household. My mom was a ‘stay-at-home’ mom like most of my friends’ moms. She sewed many of my clothes and cooked homemade meals every night. My dad had a good job with good pay but also chose a job with hours that would allow him to be present in our lives.

I remember during Christmas my senior year of high school, I opened a beautiful 10-speed bicycle. I didn’t realize it right away but it was the bike that I already owned. My dad had rebuilt the decaying mobile unit to look shiny and new with a fresh coat of hot pink paint (it was the 80’s after all). To me it was a perfect gift. My parents were devastated because one of my classmates got a bright shiny convertible and all they could give me was a rebuilt bike.

The bicycle really was the perfect gift though. I already knew I was going to be going to a college that didn’t allow cars on campus and I would have to have a bike to get around that college town. Pink was my favorite color and the bike looked brand new. I knew my parents had put a lot of thought and time into the gift and it really meant the world to me.

Christmas was also tight the next year for different reasons. My parents were supporting me in college. And my grandma had recently passed away after enduring 18 months of pancreatic cancer. My parents had been busy with important things like spending time with grandma.

Christmas saw as many boxes and bows but almost everything my siblings and I received that year had been repurposed from my grandma’s basement. I remember my mom had taken apart an old white fluffy bedspread from the basement and stitched it back up to make a couple of neat rugs for my college dorm room.

Those rugs were warm and though I was miles and miles from home, I felt near to my family. When those rugs became threadbare and were no longer needed as rugs, they were repurposed once more as kennel blankets for the dogs. We no longer have those rugs/blankets but I’m sure the memories I have of them will live on. Memories=Emotions.

Gift giving simply allows people to connect. The giver of a gift expresses their feelings by sending a gift with the hope of being able to share these with the receiver of the gift. Making connections with people around us gives us a sense of purpose and feeling of satisfaction, especially in this day and age where we are connected to people constantly through social media yet still feel isolated. No amount of tweets, texts or status updates can provide fulfillment in our relationships.

Gifts don’t have to be expensive. They don’t even have to be ‘stuff’. Most of us have more than we need and admittedly that makes it hard for others to buy us gifts. I find that the reason to abandon gift giving because we buy everything for ourselves is one more way to isolate ourselves from human connection.

Great gifts come from time. They come from really knowing the recipient. What are their joys, their passions? How can I share my emotions with them? Great gifts come from caring about another person enough to think about the act of giving. Maybe they need or want your time? Give them an experience with you, like bowling or a concert. Time is something in short supply but the thing that humans crave the most these days. Wouldn’t it be great to hear another of grandma or grandpa’s stories before they passed away? Or to have a conversation with your child or spouse where no one was looking at his or her phone or tablet?

In O. Henry’s famous Christmas story The Gift of the Magi, about a young couple that each gives up their most cherished possession to purchase a Christmas gift for the other, he writes, “And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. They are the magi.” Their gifts were thoughtful and meaningful and born of true emotion.

All I want for Christmas is a simple wish. I wish that every gift you receive, whether needed or liked, is given to show you how very special you are in someone’s life and that the emotion conveyed will be your best gift this season.