Meaning of Christmas

With no religious spin at all, for a change...

What does Christmas mean?

Well, I have long thought it means a period, before Christmas, during which one is not allowed to buy something you want, or need, for yourself, just in case Santa (aka someone you know) has bought it for you for Christmas. To get it yourself, especially if you don't say anything, will make things awkward for everyone on Christmas day. If you say something, it makes it awkward for them when you do, before Christmas day - they have to try and return it and try and find something else at short notice.

It is a time of depriving oneself of things you want or need. I think "lent" is like that, if I recall. Seems a very odd tradition.

Obviously a fixed date for giving random and secret presents has to create that effect - how could it not? That has to be the objective here, surely? Was there some other meaning?

What is worse is that it impacts children too. I heard my wife refusing to get things for my grandson when walking round shops with him. These are things that any other time of year we would buy for him as a present, but getting close to Christmas we refuse to, and say "wait and see what Santa brings". It must be very confusing for him, and he may start to resent the whole idea of Christmas. I would. This may be a good thing - he is smart.

So Christmas is a period, possibly several months long, when you DON'T get presents that you may otherwise have got, so as to ensure they are bunched up in to one day.

Of course, if you don't get what you want, you have forgone getting them yourself for months and now have to get them yourself anyway, but at least we have the January sales for that.

I wish you all an uneventful Change Freeze, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year
Bah Humbug :-)


  1. I hate Christmas for this very reason. Throughout the year if there is something I want or need I get it, then come Christmas and Birthdays there’s nothing in that sensible price bracket for presents. And if there is I suspect I’m so obsecure that no one could surprise me anyway. Best course is just not do presents.

    Bah humbug to you and yours too.

  2. Don't do Christmas, don't do presents. Bought myself an expensive, new putter after one of my wife's friends had a stomach ache and died two weeks later. Got to spend the children's inheritance before it is too late

  3. Well, I didn't get you an iMac Pro, just in case Santa does...

  4. I have a mild to moderate distaste for modern Christmas with its focus on large, expensive presents and social pressure to "have fun and enjoy yourself". For those wh prefer something more low key or are far (either physically or emotionally) from family and friends it can be a trying time. Especially so as modern society is quite good at isolating people - the poor, the elderly or simply those who have had to move a long way to unfamiliar towns to find work and it can be particularly acute if everyone else is disappearing off for family celebrations and you aren't. Suicide rates go up appreciably at thiis time of year.

    However, although your observations about gifts are correct I don't think your conclusion that it was somehow the intent is valid - it's just a natural consequence of the way things are. If Christmas giving was (as it should be) about small, personal, gifts we would not have this problem.

    I think we should stick to putting lights around our homes to appease the Sun-God, who has been slowly leaving us with shorter days and longer nights through the Autumn to return for the Spring and Summer.

  5. Surely the right way to fix this problem is simply to ask your loved ones to draw up a list of the stuff they want but don't intend to buy themselves anytime soon, ask them to put more stuff on it than everyone buying presents for them are likely to buy, then the people buying the presents pick stuff off it? That's how my family has worked for as long as we've all had enough money to be able to meaningfully buy presents for each other at all, and it works excellently: we've had no disappointments over presents for at least fifteen years and probably longer.

    Plus, it's more flexible. You can buy things that aren't single physical objects at all, or that are part-shares of a much larger thing (I got another Maltron keyboard with three family members chipping in as gifts); you can buy personally fitted things that only you have the eye for (my sister got some new earrings); you can buy things where you know vaguely what sort of thing you want and the present-giver knows more (e.g. my dad asked for "a good laptop replacement" and we cooperated to decide what would do).

    Note: the gift is not the cash, here: the cash is just the medium of exchange. The gift is *what is bought with* the cash, but we're exploiting the fact that cash *is* a medium of exchange to allow 1:many and many:1 relationships and cooperative relationships and multi-event, multi-person relationships (this present is my birthday and Christmas present to you, and my son's birthday present to you). You just can't do that with surprise presents: even if the buyers cooperate, the opportunity cost if the surprise present is undesired is too high (the one I just mentioned would have been *three* presents wasted at once).

    The only thing you lose is the surprise... but since half that time it's the surprise of disappointment I frankly don't think you're missing much. Surprise presents are good for children but once you're a teenager or an adult I think dispensing with the whole surprise nonsense is the right thing to do. You get the warm fuzzies of giving your loved ones stuff anyway, and then some extras because you *know* they'll appreciate it.

  6. Exactly what my family does, and explained more eloquently than I ever could.

  7. Great and nice post. Thanks for sharing with us.


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