This post is incredibly apt considering my birthday is at the end of October and Christmas is in two months. This is something that has been on my mind for quite a while, and I’ve just now become strong enough to voice my opinion on the internet.
I hate presents.
Being raised with an obligation to celebrate people on specific days has given me a sour taste in my mouth. Contrary to teaching me to love others, holidays have turned me rebellious, sulking in the corner while everyone eats cake and sings. The world puts a lot of emphasis on showing our love through material things. Most the time people don’t even put any effort into it. They head to the mall on Christmas Eve and snag everything they see that looks somewhat nice. Recognizing specific days, instead of spontaneity; making certain people feel “loved” by the packages we hand over. It all makes me itch.
I have a hatred for all holidays. The holidays don’t deserve my vehemence, but I can’t help it. I just can’t find it in my heart to be passive about them. I absolutely abhor them. The holidays never did anything to me. I realize I need to relax a bit. But I hate wishing anyone “Happy (Anything).” It makes me gag.
It’s one of those things where I’ve continued to rebel well into my twenties. Like a teenager every time a friend celebrates a birthday, I grumble and groan about sending them a birthday card (heaven forbid I have to post to Facebook, which I find horrid in its own right).
The obligation and guilt I’m tormented with when a holiday comes up on the calendar is overwhelming. For that entire day I want to crawl under the covers and ignore the world. It’s been even worse lately as Facebook and Twitter and all the social mediums seem to be a place to broadcast how absolutely awesome you are about recognizing said holidays. Posting profile photos of daddys on Father’s Day, berating others for not seeing the true meaning of Memorial Day, writing long notes about how amazing your mother is so you somehow feel validated for having done your duty. When did public bragging become a form of giving to those who deserve it?
I’m also the type of person who can’t be fake. So if I don’t like a gift, I find it very, very difficult to act as though I love it. My gratitude falls flat. And then I feel terrible, completely horridly awful.
I’ve started to move toward living simply. Not having knick-knacks around my house, getting rid of the excess. So now gifts give me heartburn threefold.
Yet the way I react when someone hands me something with meaning behind it—that is a good feeling. Someone I love took the time to think about me, to consider who I really am, and found the perfect gift. It doesn’t even have to be tangible. It can be plane tickets for two or a chocolate bar. As long as there is true reason, I am thankful.
I also believe in experiences being more important things to spend money on than “things.” Travel is a large part of my life. Experiencing other cultures and getting to know the world like a close best friend is something that is very dear to me. I like to have my mind opened. I love wandering cities, getting lost, and gazing up and around at buildings, people, artifacts. Which means that I find it much more useful to spend my money on travel than things. And I get even more pleasure out of experiencing things with those I love. My husband surprised me with a Jane Austen weekend in England for my birthday a few years ago. He planned each detail with B&Bs, horseback riding, a stop at Jane Austen’s house, and so much more. When my mother came to visit me in Belgium I created a scavenger hunt around to Brussel’s landmarks for her birthday. That way we had some fun with the clues and also got to learn the city. We had the best waffles ever and found the obscure Jeanneke-Pis (the girl version of the peeing boy fountain).
I implore you to sit back and think about the people who really matter to you. Show them how you feel, on any given day in the year. Don’t get them flowers on Valentine’s Day just because everyone else is doing it, because you have to, because they expect it. Surprise them. Take your best friend on a spontaneous weekend trip to a place they’ve always wanted to go. Give to a charity in your significant other’s name. Call your mother on a Tuesday in August to tell her that you love her. Just please, please don’t ruin it by doing it on a holiday.
(Follow-up post to come on how we should give others what they want, not what we want. But I’d love to hear your thoughts before that one goes live.)