A Christmas Rant

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:

  1. To broadcast the cricket
  2. 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.


10 thoughts on “A Christmas Rant

  1. I hope you get some tea otherwise I am afraid we will suffer the consequences of this lack of an appropriate gift all over the world.

  2. Hmm, well, I was thinking perhaps the Christmas rant might be a bit more like The Queen’s Christmas message and be broadcast on the telly (or perhaps a radio gig since the ABC is so short on quality this time of year), but, perhaps, it is best for all that it comes in this form.

    There certainly can be a lot of stress and pressure involved in gift-giving especially when we ARE hammered on all sides with advertising – but I love giving presents for Christmas, and I do put quite a lot of thought and efforts into them (sometimes too much, perhaps) – making jam & chutney etc throughout the year, for example (I strenuously object to making biscuits owing to the ridiculous amount of faff involved), that sort of thing.

    I think Kris-Kringle-by-numbers (competitive sport or not) sounds like the most stressful nightmare of all, though! When you have to try and choose something that everyone/anyone might like… How meaningless, and, well, crap, to be honest.

    I’ll be keeping as close an eye on twitter as possible to find out if tea does actually make its way under the tree at your house Robert, and will keep an ear out for any explosions, which I’m sure will be audible all the way from Adelaide.

    1. I will be very grateful and happy for any thoughtful gifts, though what could be more thoughtful than some nice tea?
      Your gift to me was very thoughtful, thank you.

  3. I didn’t know Kris Kringle stood for “Secret Santa” either way, I wouldn’t go for that in the family. I do enjoy thinking of what each person might like, best of all finding something that is truly perfect. I don’t know if that makes me a selfless person though, since there’s that whole pleasure aspect to consider. Adults receive something too, there’s no age barrier. The only barrier is the one between the price tag, and the contents of my wallet.

    Anyway, I don’t much enjoy hitting the stores, it kind of spoils the festive mood. A touch of pepper spray anyone? That’s what some people got, as they wrangled over bargains in the electro department of some SUPA-store. And the winner was…the lady who whipped out her can, and buzzed out her enemies. It was all in the spirit of giving of course. How incredibly thoughtful.

    1. I agree that there is so much pleasure in selecting the right gift.
      As for the woman with the pepper spray (or capsicum spray as we say here), she’s just a moron. Who would do that? Totally inappropriate.
      Did she not consider that she might get some spray in her own eye??? Too risky.
      A Taser would be far more sensible. Not only no chance of spray drift, but a pile of twitching, drooling bodies between her and the others trying to get their hands on the 40% genuine cotton sheet sets that will make her life complete.

      1. For a minute there I thought I’d spotted you on TV, running out of Walmart with some satin sheets and a taser. But you said “40%” cotton, and the ones that man had were “100%” polyester. So, you’re off the hook.
        Unlike the poor saps the Poly-guy tasered.

  4. Merry Christmas to you too Robert.

    I get your rant. Have heard too many examples of families doing exactly what you’re talking about and I didn’t have nearly the violent reaction to it that you did. But now that I think about it, I guess I agree.

    The newish tradition that I loathe is the giving of a donation in my name. You have some charity that you think is really fantastic, and as a Christmas gift to me, you send them some money and say it’s in my name. What?

    Choose your charity, make your own donations. If it’s a gift to me, shouldn’t I have just a bit of say in where it’s going?

    I know it’s a very forward-thinking, progressive way of giving. And that it’s rather popular in some circles, but it bugs me. Clearly.

    1. I agree- the charity giving idea is a cop out. Instead of the hard task of thinking about what someone who is near and dear would like, the giver gets it simplified to “Some African kid I don’t know who is starving? Well, I guess he’d like a chicken. Well done, Uncle Basil, we gave this kid a chook in your name.”

      What’s next? Why not donate people’s time in their name? “Here you go Leroy, I’ve given you 10 hours work in a homeless shelter as your gift. They’re expecting you Tuesday, 9 am.”

      The exception is vegetarians in your family that get on your nerves. Give starving people meat animals in their name. It drives them nuts.

      I’m all for charity, but charity these days is very corporate. Whenever I get a charity flyer and they’ve put those little tick boxes and try to tell you how much to donate, I bin it.

  5. I got no tea for Christmas.

    I did give some tea; I gave a bunch of Japanese tea I had acquired to my Japanese sister-in-law.

    It felt wrong to give Genmaicha to someone I actually like.

Comments are closed.