Gifting at Christmas
In many parts of America and Europe and probably some other places of the world, but definitely not India and Goa, gifting at Christmas is a big tradition. Browsing through the internet, I found that in the US at least, gifting at Christmas is a serious pre-occupation. Black Friday, Stampedes, taking loans for buying gifts are diner table discussions, on the other hand so is ‘Buy Nothing day’ and hand made gifts to cut down on holiday spending and combat the commercialization. Recently a study done by e-Bay found that 83 percent of the people they interviewed received unwanted gifts and 54 percent of these planned to sell their gifts online!. So much for all that shopping fever and stomping someone to death.
When we were kids, it was hard to contain the excitement on the ‘Christmas Tree’ day. This was a little event held at the Saligao Institute, a club really, which held a Christmas tree for all its members. Parents would buy gifts and hand them over to the Institute and for a small fee; we would be handed over these gifts along with a small bag of sweets, some drinks and eats, by a hugely stuffed Santa,.
The event would begin outside, on the concrete tennis court, with games, that I never ever won. I was never one for games. And as the games came to an end, Santa would come, sometimes at a merry gallop, from somewhere on the other side of the building or as it once happened, on a bull-o-cart, ha-ha- hoing and throwing sweets, that would send the kids into a frenzied dive around his feet. Handing over prizes to the winners, we would then be trooped into the fairly large hall. And none could stray their eyes from the gifts of all shapes and sizes piled high on the table in the corner.
One particular year, I remember it like it was yesterday, I was eyeing the largest gift at the very end of the high pile and wishing that gift were mine. That gave me a reason to embark on a dream, and slowly each child’s names was called and they scampered up to claim their box and the pile reduced until they reached this large box and guess what, my name was called out!! Man, it made my day. I nearly squealed in excitement. That was a wonderful gift on general knowledge, it was a quiz box. It had questions on one side and answers on the other. A little plastic yellow man with a pointer at his feet would be fitted into the question side and pointed to the question you wanted to ask and then removed and placed on the answer section, and the little yellow man, spun on the glass surface and pointed to the right answer on the sheet. There were sheets of questions on all kinds of topics, sports, history, geography. I was young then and my general knowledge poor, I don’t think I knew much of those answers, but looking back I think it set something ticking. My sister had got something similar, thought it would a little bulb that came on if the circuit was complete by the right answer to a question.
These educational gifts were always bought by my dad and we always hoped it was he who would buy the gifts. Mum was way too practical, managing a lower middle class family; she refused to ‘waste’ scarce money on gifts like these. If it was her buying Christmas gifts it was most likely to be stuff we could use, like handkerchiefs and socks and some things like that, which were for us a major disappointment. After all it was the only gift we received all year.
Today, I do have the opportunity to see abundance and excess. I see parents giving kids loads of gifts, I see guys giving their girlfriends and girls giving their boyfriends loads of unwanted gifts and yet, I never see that spark, that so lit our eyes when we received a gift. Anything we were given was never too small, yet I knew friends my age, who looked at gifts and dismissed them because they were cheap. I think the only time a gift really thrills you is when it’s rare, like once a year, and when you’ve a child. When you can’t afford to buy yourself that much wanted something and really hope some mummy, daddy, or uncle, auntie Santa is out there reading your mind.