Home > Philosophy > Rethinking a Christmas Tradition

Rethinking a Christmas Tradition

When I was little, my family “celebrated” Christmas by giving me presents and setting up a decorated Christmas tree every year, but we stopped that tradition over eight years ago. When I think about it, my parents did that only so I could be happy at receiving special gifts from “Santa Claus” like every other kid. However I am not as young or naive as before and my happiness doesn’t depend on other people giving me presents on December 25, whether they do come from Santa Claus or not. Now the question is why do people give each other presents on Christmas Day instead on any other day of the year? I believe most, if not everyone, does it for one of the following three reasons:

Religion

Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and gift giving is part of that tradition. That is an acceptable reason and one I will not bother to argue with. However I know the majority of us do not give others presents because of religious reasons. Even to this day I still have not met anyone who give gifts solely because of their religion. On a side note, did you know the Catholic Church had banned that tradition during the Middle Ages because they thought it had Pagan origins?

Love and Friendship

Most will argue that giving gifts shows we love our family and friends. That’s true, but then why can’t you give presents during some other time during the year and not December 25? Is there anything wrong with giving presents some other time of the year to show your love and affection? For one, it will definitely be a surprise for the recipient. I mean, it’s not as fun when you know you are going to get a present on Christmas. Saying that, I don’t exchange Christmas gifts. What I do instead is give and receive presents at random times during the year from family and friends. Sure it’s different from everyone else, but I like the freedom and flexibility to do whatever I want whenever I want. For those who have felt stressed at this time of year from the holiday shopping, would you appreciate it more if Christmas didn’t turn so much into a commercialized holiday?

Society

Anyone else who doesn’t give presents for the first two reasons does it because society mandates it, in other words, everyone else does it. The problem with this is that the same argument can be used to justify any action one chooses to do. How would you react if I told you the only reason I voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election was because everyone in my neighbourhood voted for him? Imagine that reaction because that is the same one you are going to get from me if you ever use that society argument. Something else to ponder is do presents have meaning and if they do, is it because we choose to give them or because we are just following the status quo?

I am not against the idea of gift exchange per se. I simply question why everyone does it on December 25 and not on any other day, say April 9. Furthermore, wouldn’t it make more economic sense to do all the holiday shopping on Boxing Day and give gifts afterwards? For those living in the states, what’s stopping you from shopping on Black Friday and delivering gifts immediately after? If you guys do give presents specifically on Christmas for other reasons, do share because I would like to hear them.

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Categories: Philosophy
  1. January 1, 2012 at 10:21 am

    “On a side note, did you know the Catholic Church had banned that tradition during the Middle Ages because they thought it had Pagan origins?”

    …because Christmas itself doesn’t have Pagan origins?

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