Inspired by a couple of recent conversations, and the less than subtle appearance of Christmas paraphernalia in shops, in September even, I figured I should explain why I become a somewhat less than pleasant person at the mention of Christmas.
Depending on who you talk to, the origin of Christmas is either the birth of Jesus (which I am well-known to discredit and disagree with) or a jealous Christian copy of an ancient pagan festival of dubious nature. The origin of Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with the modern equivalent. Christmas is about greed; It’s one huge celebration of self-gratification during which you force obligations on others.
It’s all for the children though, right? Well, not really. If you never mentioned Christmas to a kid, never celebrated it, never showed it on TV, or advertised it in shops, a child wouldn’t know of the existence of Christmas and, therefore, wouldn’t miss out. They also wouldn’t get any gifts though. Or would they?
Most people’s concept of gift giving is a funny thing. A gift is something given to someone else, in thought of them, without any expectation of compensation. The act of giving is a personal act that you do because you want someone to have something they need, or maybe just want. Giving a gift at Christmas (or a birthday, for that matter) has turned into a selfish act of self-gratification. With kids, for example, people expect a thank you letter or call. For adults, there’s the expectation of a return gift of equal or higher value with the risk of hard feelings existing if it doesn’t happen. Real gifts do not come with expectations of compensation attached. Expecting something back is called a transaction.
But a thank you note from a kid isn’t much to ask, is it? Well, it is because that’s you expecting something in return for a gift. You’re wanting your self-gratification. You want to be proud of yourself for buying that cheap Christmas tat for someone, who probably didn’t even want it, and revel in the glow of a hollow token of gratitude that someone feels obligated (or is forced) to write.
The way I prefer to do gifts is to buy them for my loved ones whenever I feel I want to. I don’t feel the need to have a special occasion, nor do I appreciate being forced to. Nor do I feel any desire towards wanting an equivalent token returned to me. A gift is a gift, not a request for praise.
This is why, when I’m asked what I’d like for Christmas or birthday etc., I ask for nothing. Everything I need or want I’ll get myself using my own means. Expecting someone to buy the expensive things I want would just be selfish, and any cheap token thing I’m given to put in my bottom draw to throw out next year is just another request for praise because “it’s the thought that counts” (which, I’ll add, is a thoughtless phrase that disregards the thoughts of the receiving party if they have specifically requested that nothing is given to them).
Besides all of this is the whole family visiting deal. People who know me know that I’ve never been a big family person. My immediate family is my priority, and always has been. When, then, I’m forced to travel about to meet people to celebrate something that I see as a needless event, I become what I consider to be understandably upset.
I understand that most people are very family oriented, and that’s fine. People are social creatures by nature, but part of my nature is to avoid a great deal of contact with people. It comes with the introverted territory. Unfortunately, extroverted people tend to ignore this, or entirely misunderstand it. Either way, it’s disregarded. Having part of your nature and identity being disregarded is somewhat irking; It doesn’t feel very nice.
At the end of it all, basically being forced to comply to a role of cheerfulness and obligated generosity for an event I don’t believe in and disagree with on a fundamental level for longer than I can remember somewhat grates on my nerves.
This is why I am a grumpy old man at (the mention of) Christmas.