I was listening to the summer fare on ABC radio.
For those of you who don’t live in Australia, ABC radio is our public broadcaster. It offers the most intelligent and intellectual news, discussions on a wide variety of topics such as politics and economics, society, world events and so much more.
So it’s generally considered not the sort of radio that anyone under 60 listens to, and I have listened to it more or less continuously since I was 19, because I’m not the sort of person that any anyone has in mind when they make fatuous generalisations.
For 48 weeks of the year it is fantastic, but over summer it has two functions:
- To broadcast the cricket
- To make the days where there is no cricket as bearable as possible
Generally, they fail at number 2. They do stuff on the cheap over summer, so the programmes become National. So instead of your beloved local presenters, you get voices you don’t know, they stop mentioning the time and they have the forced jollity of a volunteer drama teacher in a prison.
It is during this activity yesterday that they had a segment called “Your family’s unusual Xmas gift-giving practices.”
Several people, whom I shall mildly sneer at, had families where a ‘Kris Kringle’ was the norm, but where people drew numbers from a hat, went up and picked a present, and then a later person could force you to swap your unopened gift for one they had pulled from under the tree and decided they didn’t like.
On one level, I applaud the generally heroic attempts to turn gift giving into a competitive sport where you can outwit Aunt Mildred, palm off young Jonny, aged 5, with a cheap shaving kit and get to run around singing “We Are The Champions” when you open the digital radio that someone else won in a competition and didn’t want. It’s very Australian, and it must be noted that there is no cricket on the radio on Christmas Day, so we need our sports fix.
But I hate the idea of a Kris Kringle. “You will buy one gift, to the tune of $40, and stick it under the tree”.
There are so many things wrong with that it’s not funny. but let’s move on to even more despicable practices.
There are families where there is a dollar limit to gift giving. “You will spend no more than $2 on a gift for each adult”. I remember being at a family gathering many years ago where apparently this had been organised by one family member without telling anyone else. They would whine “but WE ALL AGREED on the $2 limit” as they opened a crystal tea set* or new Mercedes convertible* , and looked smug as one of their recipients opened a free calendar that had clearly come with a box of tomatoes from the local greengrocer**.
I understand the rationale behind setting limits: it’s because you’re cheap and uncaring.
But even worst are those the smuggest of the smug; those who declare “Well we’ve agreed that the adults don’t get presents at Christmas time”. BAH HUMBUG. You miserable, cheap bastards. You dress up your pusillanimous and miserly ways as a virtue “Well, it’s all about commercialism, isn’t it, and we’re above all that.”
Above it? You’re beneath contempt. You avoid dipping your stingy short arm in your deep pocket; you avoid making an effort to get out and get gifts; but mostly you are declaring to the world “I am so damn selfish I can”t be bothered thinking of a nice gift for anyone else”.
‘It is better to give that receive’ is one proverb that I believe is innate in us. Giving is the greatest gift of all. How dare these cheapskates try to hold the high moral ground?
And the economic argument? So you’re almost flat broke? So what?
What does it cost for two pieces of cellophane, some string, half a kilo of butter, some flour and some sugar? Bugger all, really.
Giving shortbread to everybody for Xmas is easy. And you can think about the shapes and decorations you use. You can use your imagination to make a really personal gift for your loved ones, and without a shopping mall in sight.
One year we owned a teashop. 80 hour weeks, no spare cash at al. So everyone got tea.
But every person got a selection of tea carefully thought out to suit them. That’s the whole idea. It’s the thought that counts.
So, skip the humbug, enjoy gift giving, and have a Merry Christmas.
I hope I get some tea.
*Exaggerated for comedic effect
** I wish this had been exaggerated for comedic effect. It was me that got the calendar.