We Americans have the freedom to shop. If merchandisers open their doors to us, we can shop at our leisure and on a whim. Merchandisers....those clever trappers...who slyly set their holiday trap lines. Consumers.....those vulnerable victims.....who willingly walk into the well-camouflaged trap of over-spending.
The roots of gift-giving go back to non-Christian observances, such as the festival of Saturn by the Romans celebrating the returning sun, or Winter Solstice. Saturnalia celebrated the bounty of the harvest and the good things in life by giving gifts made from wheat, such as baskets of bread.
Gift-giving was incorporated into Christianity by the story of the Magi....three kings bringing gifts to Baby Jesus. Around the year 1000, the Catholic Church banned gift giving because of its pagan roots. The Puritans who first came to America found gift-giving to be a careless use of abundance.
The Victorian era (1837-1901) brought back the traditions of gift-giving as part of their Christmas festivities, but the gifts were simpler than those of today. They didn't pile the gifts under a tree, but scattered them through the house. Merriment was central to their celebrations. Small gifts (a silver coin, a ring, button, or thimble) were hidden in a bowl of Christmas Pudding. After everyone had finished eating Christmas dinner, they gathered around the Pudding Pie and took turns taking a spoonful. Whatever treat was in their spoonful, was theirs to keep.
Those of us who have seen a long string of Christmas traditions come and go, have valid reason to call our modern Christmas the "gimme holiday." Having said that, we Americans also have the freedom to change the way we shop. We deceive our children with the "point and receive" Christmas. Life isn't that way, and they'll only be disappointed when they find that out the older they get. Maybe it's time we come up with wiser ways of maintaining the giving spirit, while at the same time stepping back away from the merchandising trap lines.
Talented artisans all over the country are holding craft fairs from now until December 25th. Ordinary Americans using their inborn abilities to create. They are selling handmade gifts, without expensive labels, for the youngest in the family to those silently tolerating their days in a care facility. Buying one-of-a-kind handmade gifts from these artisans would be a masterful way of teaching children not only how to spend their money wisely, but teaching them to appreciate the talents of others. Explain to them how the gift was made, the patience and time it took. The gift that comes with a story has substance. With a watchful eye and subtle encouragement, every child can become an artisan. It's that business of recognizing the spark of genius that comes to the world with every baby. It's that business of making sure a child knows he/she has the genius gene living inside of them. A child's creative passions will one day serve as their ultimate source of contentment. Choosing to buy gifts from talented artisans can be one step toward bettering the ancient tradition of gift-giving and fulfilling the needs of the human heart.