Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Gifts

The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas began, we think, with the Magi, the Three Wise Men (or Kings, or Magicians, depending on your version of the story) who traveled to Bethlehem to present gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child. The story of the Magi - of how they traveled from "the Orient" to Bethlehem to worship the Baby Jesus - is a moving one. It's also given rise to some classic stories: "The Gift of the Magi," by O. Henry, and The Fourth Wise Man, among others. There's even a great cartoon that was a favorite of my mother's: two robed and turbaned men on camels are riding across the desert, with a third man behind them in the far distance. One of the two in the lead turns and shouts, "Come on, Balthasar, hurry up - it's a quarter to A.D.!"

If you think about it, the story of the Magi is a very interesting one. They bore wonderful gifts obtained two thousand years before Wal-Mart was available for their shopping convenience, and they traveled across the trackless desert to find Bethlehem, guided only by a star (GPS not yet being available).

But we're talking about what the Magi wrought: the tradition of Christmas gifts...and Christmas shopping to obtain them.

I enjoy giving gifts, but I hate shopping for them. I always want to have a gift that means something special to the recipient, something I know they'll want, but it's not always easy.

Agnes and I begin our Christmas shopping kabuki dance each year around the beginning of September, when she asks me what I would like for Christmas. I dutifully type up a list of suggestions and print it out for her. Five or six times. All copies of the list then disappear, to be found at the bottom of her purse in mid-February, along with five pounds of loose change, two cubic feet of crumpled receipts, several fistfuls of dried-out candies, and Jimmy Hoffa. In the meantime, she shops by pointing at things in the stores, asking me if I'd like them, then buying them on the spot and making me promise to be surprised when I receive them.

Oh, well...

Buying gifts for the grandchildren is much more rewarding, but it gets difficult, too. It's easy to buy for Leya - this will be her first Christmas, so her expectations are limited, duplication of things she already has is very unlikely, and she'll probably care more about the colorful wrappings than the gifts themselves. Noah, on the other hand, is a year older and also has access to the vast numbers of toys and books already purchased for Marcy and Joe. It's tough to be original for him. And it's complicated by the fact that there's another set of grandparents out there buying stuff about which we have no information. In any case, I mailed four large boxes of gifts to Marcy, Joe, and Noah this past week with fingers crossed. I don't know how Santa does it without USPS, FedEx, and UPS.

Many offices sponsor Christmas (no, in the interest of political correctness we must say "Holiday") gift exchanges. These are a pain in the rear. In many cases, the appropriate gifts for many of the people with whom we work would be likely to elicit the professional attention of the coroner. The top shelf of the closet in my study is filled with well-intentioned, but useless things received during office Christmas ... uh ... Holiday ... gift exchanges.

But for all the agony of Christmas shopping, of searching desperately for the right gift (not to mention a parking place within a three-day walk of the mall), there's something magical about a brightly-lit tree on Christmas morning, surrounded by beautifully-wrapped gifts and assailed by happy children.

I may not be a particularly Wise Man, but I do enjoy watching children joyfully opening their gifts at Christmas.

And yes, being a child at heart, it's fun to open my own gifts, too.

Have a good day. Tomorrow, we'll talk about Christmas parties. More thoughts then.



Random Magus said...

The most special gift is to see someone really love the gift you got them. It really is

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Dropping off the gift of cyber ((HUGS)) for you. Love is the best gift and the gift that holds the true meaning of the holiday.

ZonaNet said...

I really love gift to my friends it's the best something to keep on your freind


Jean-Luc Picard said...

Political correctness is banned!!

Happy CHRISTMAS, Bilbo!