Staff Commentary

The Meaning of Christmas

by Jon Minners

            The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, but children woke up to find they were bare.  No gifts, no gifts and Santa was jeered.  The recession had hit and he canceled Christmas this year.  That wasn't the case for all - the rich got to play with their fancy new balls; poor tots had their toys to enjoy - but the low middle class, their Christmas was spoiled.  Without a full-time job, without any money to see, there would not be gifts under their Christmas tree. 

            Last week, I wrote a blog about how the economy forced us to be thankful for the little things in life.  And as we all sat with our families to enjoy a delicious meal, it was nice to just simplify life for a second and think about how grateful we are to celebrate the holiday with the ones we loved.  2009 forced us to live life differently and material objects were not as important anymore.  But now, as economic indicators start showing signs of a recovery, Christmas is here and there are sales for the latest toys, games, jewelry, clothing and more.  Every year ends the same way, with a focus on what we want, what we can't afford and what we wish we could own.  Christmas becomes a time when a lot of people who were used to having so much become depressed because they have so little. 

            And I have to admit that I fall into this trap, but not for the reasons one would think.  If you asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I couldn't even tell you.  Maybe I would want an iPod Touch or the Zune HD, but my old Zune works perfectly fine, and I can't believe owning a new gadget that does most of the same things the old ones did will really make me a happier person.  Maybe I would like a new videogame, but I barely play the ones I have now.  I could always enjoy a new movie, but I have Netflix and how many times do we watch movies more than once - especially with the cream of the crap that has been shoved down our faces this year.  It would be great to get a lot of things, but when you look at what you really need, I think the only thing I would want this year would be a full-time job, with the health benefits that would allow me to take care of my family.  And then there is something else I would want...

            See, Christmas is not about getting gifts.  It's about giving them.  I will never forget last year.  Kristy, my girlfriend, only wanted a Canon Rebel SRL for Christmas, but she knew she wouldn't get one, because of the expense.  She asked for gift certificates so that she could save up and purchase one on her own.  I was finishing up a temporary job and I knew I might have only one more big Christmas to least for a while.  But I used my upcoming unemployment as an excuse...saying I could not afford the holidays.  She didn't expect much, and I made sure that I appeared unhappy about my inability to provide.  I told her I would get her a gift certificate to start her on her way, but that would be all.  She did want some workout gloves, so I bought those, and then proceeded to buy her additional workout equipment.  The look on her face when she opened each item - "what are you trying to tell me?"  I laughed, especially when she opened the box containing the small medicine ball.  It looked like it could hold a camera.  I bet she was upset when she opened that one.  And then, I purchased the latest in the Wicked series, and had it signed by the author.  I felt that would be the gift that showed I cared.  When she opened it, she was delighted by the thought that went into it.  I told her to open the book, and she did, and wondered why, because there was nothing there.  I said, "that's weird - I put the gift certificate inside the book."  She searched throughout the book and found nothing, while I told her I would look inside the closet and find it.  When I came back, I had her camera, wrapped and ready.  And as she opened it, she cried - it was the first time I knew I nailed the gift and the feeling was amazing.  Giving is truly better than receiving, but this year, I won't be able to experience that. 

            While I think I might have gotten something Kristy would like, the rest of my family and friends suffer.  My little nephew has yet to be showered with gifts from his favorite uncle, and that makes me incredibly sad.  The little ones in Kristy's family, who do not understand this recession and can't imagine why Christmas should be any different this year, will not receive the kind of gifts we like to give.  We'll get something, but in the back of my mind, I will feel like I let them down.  Same with everyone else.  Me and my little sister canceled our gift giving this year.  The same goes with me and my best friend.  I really enjoy watching people unwrap gifts and seeing the looks on their faces when they get something they really liked; more importantly, a gift they didn't expect.  It's a shame that I won't experience that feeling this year. 

            I know - Christmas is not about gifts.  But for non-religious people, the pagan practices are what makes Christmas so much fun.  But I am going to try to make this year special.  A smaller tree will be decorated.  There will be our annual trip to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree, complete with hot cocoa and a Christmas pretzel from the street vendor.  We will listen to Christmas songs, which will get us in the mood and probably depress us at the same time.  Of course, there is the marathon of Christmas specials and movies - our personal favorites include How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon and not the horrible film), The Scrooge musical (Thank you very much, Thank you Very Much - that's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me.  Yep, the classic, not another Jim Carrey crapfest...see the trend), the Christmas Story, maybe a little March of the Wooden Soldiers, and definitely my favorite films to watch with Kristy on the holidays - Miracle on 34th Street (the original) and Love Actually.  There will be baking of cookies, and this year, I will get to visit my Grandmother and Aunt for the first time in long enough.  And there will be the annual breakfast with Kristy's family...and dinners, too.  I guess it won't be too bad after all.

Then the Recession Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!  "Maybe Christmas," he though, "doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more."

For more witty commentary from Jon Minners, visit his blog, The Milk's Gone Bad, at

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