Before I moved to US in 1990, Christmas celebrations in my hometown Mangalore, was very meaningful and very traditional — like visiting homes singing Christmas carols, going to the Christmas eve midnight mass attired in new clothing, and after the Church ceremony partying and dancing at the clubs or hotels, and even on streets or beaches under the moonlit skies. On Christmas Day we all gather with family members, relatives and friends, pray for God’s blessings before we consume the sumptuous Christmas meal, and exchange plum cakes and homemade delicacies called ‘ Kuswar ‘. Christmas has been a joyous and traditional celebration for all Mangalorean Christians that way for all these years. No lavishly spending on gifts, because exchanging of gifts wasn’t the part of this joyous feast.
Living in the United States for the last twenty years, I have noticed that Christmas has lost its true meaning of celebration. While only a few Americans still celebrate it very spiritually and traditionally, others consider Christmas season as ‘ happy holidays ‘. What the heck is happy holidays? Are we celebrating holidays or are we celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ? What is happening? The traditional Christmas has become so commercialized, that Christmas these days is nothing but a day of gifts, gifts and more gifts! Christmas has become a time of heightened frustration as people overspend on lavish gifts and suffer bouts of consumerist rage in the malls, in the supermarkets and on the roadways. Oh well!
Yes friends, Christmas is just around the corner. Everybody is getting excited about what gifts they will be receiving. We all get hyped up about the new gadgets, the new toys etc, the latest in-thing to own or the elation of getting the objects of our desires. What I observed interestingly is that some get disappointed when they receive what they do not like/want — and next day or few days later you will see these folks at the returns/exchange counters at the stores. While some go into a state of comparison with the value of the gifts they received, and some simply get dejected because they didn’t receive a single gift.
Out of many lips proclaim these noble words “Christmas is all about giving”. Let’s look at this statement together. While I totally endorse the truth about this statement, for a moment — I find myself also a victim of the selfish human nature, wondering why certain people have forgotten me during Xmas. It took me a while but I’m glad I finally understood. I learned some important values which I like to share with you all –
Christmas is about giving, and it is more blessed to give than to receive — We can’t and should not force or emotionally blackmail anyone to give us gifts. A gift comes from the heart and the Giver should gotta be willing to give. And it is the pleasure and privilege of the receiver to receive. The joy of being able to bless someone whom you love/appreciate, to make them smile is priceless. I don’t need a present in return to have my heart bursting with joy to see my loved one receive my gift with glee and gladness. The unspeakable joy that I receive cannot be contained in a cardboard box wrapped up with ribbons.
You reap what you sow — Some of us including myself wonder why people don’t give us Xmas gifts. The question I learned to ask is– why should they? How have I made a difference in their lives this past year? Have I been a true friend? Have I been a blessing to them? What did I do for them? Have I been self-centered? Have I been involved in their lives — in support and encouragement? Time for a reality check….
You don’t just give during Xmas. You give all year long — How true. Sometimes I get perplexed when I see folks get lovey and mushy during Xmas when all year long they are cold and distant. It’s the same effect of that of sobbing children who wail dramatically at their parent’s funeral but did nothing for their parent’s when he/she is still alive. Love is a lifestyle, not an event. And giving is an act of love.
The value and amount of gifts you receive has nothing to do with how good a person you are — One should never weigh the monetary value of gifts, and more so not let that affect your self-worth. Are we so little and worthless, that we compare our significance to gifts? Never should we do that. Gifts are subjected to the abilities and conviction of the Giver. There are too many variables. Simply just learn to be content that someone remembered you. They don’t have to give you anything, you know. Learn to appreciate that they remembered you, and be content. We should give, but without expectations. The Giver with expectation of receiving in return is the worst giver of all. Period.
Gifts don’t always cost money — Giving gifts does not always mean monetary gifts. It could be a gift of your time, your service to help, your ear to listen, your friendship, your care and concern for those who surround you… and not just about those people you are concerned or enjoy being with, but also those who are always there for you eg. family.
Let us continue to grasp love and all its expression. Remember, Christmas is not just the season for giving gifts — after all New Year will be here soon, followed closed on its heels the Valentines Day… Mothers Day….Fathers Day….Sweetest Day ..and all other kind of ‘Days’ !! So there is plenty of room for practice.
Let’s forget about gifts . Instead let us all joyfully and unambiguously recognize and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, and say it loud and clear to everyone — ” Merry Christmas “, and not ” happy holidays”. ” Merry Christmas” — they are beautiful words. Afterall Christmas is Christ’s birthday, not a holiday. Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas to you all
Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois