Christmas of my Discontent

I tend to assume a fetal position around Halloween and then hope somebody notifies me once New Year’s is over. All the forced “jolliness,” the tourists (Must they walk so slowly?), the plastic tinsel strewn everywhere, the eggnog, the Christmas music. But perhaps the greatest affront is the gift giving and getting. And I’m not even talking about Secret Santas. I’m referring to the rollercoaster ride of exchanging gifts with friends and family (or at least my family). It’s a kind of class warfare, with no little bit of hand-to-hand combat.

In this economy, I guess I should be grateful for every inexplicable stocking stuffer (a deck of “Celtic Wisdom” cards, anyone?) and doodad, since I could potentially sell them on the street or trade them for food should the need arrive later on. But I always come back to Why? Why are we pretending we know what each other like? Why do we wrap them in paper made from trees that would be better off staying trees? Why do we flatter ourselves into thinking that this year will be different?


Many screeds have been written recently about how to give gifts more responsibly in these times of woe. I’ve decided to go cold turkey on gift buying and instead contribute to Heifer International in the names of my relatives. Actually, I did a similar thing a few years ago, a move that was received with silent wrath. I lost my nerve for a little bit but now I’m back. My sister, I predict, will not be pleased. For those who may not be familiar, Heifer ( is an incredibly well-run 60-year-old organization dedicated to helping people become self-reliant through sustainable agriculture. For the most part that means giving farm animals to people in need, teaching them how to take care of them and get the most they can out of them—milk, eggs, meat, etc, and finally “passing on” that knowledge and sustenance to other people in their communities. Having seen the Heifer picture of a little kid hugging a goat like it’s his best friend (above) you’d be some kind of ogre if your heart didn’t melt. 

Of course, there is a caveat: I do make an exception for food and wine. If you feel like you absolutely must bake me some Christmas cookies or the like, I will not protest. I will accept that gift gladly and shut up and eat.