The Difficulty of Giving Up

Sometimes getting presents is my least favorite part of Christmas. That sounds really strange, I know, but I remember when I was a little kid, after opening all the presents and sitting in the living room amid torn-up wrapping paper, watching my brother race off to install whatever latest PC game he’d just unboxed.

That was it. From my childlike point of view, Christmas was over. There were no other presents to be opened. We’d already gone to Mass the previous night, so all that remained was to enjoy the day at home… with Mom, Dad, my brother, and my presents. But that joyous excitement was all gone. I mean, I wasn’t a total brat. I knew the “reason for the season” and the meaning behind it all. But the commercial expectation is that Christmas is about presents: what you can afford to give and what you get. Society’s message is a hard one to shake.

When I got older and people asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I’d tell them that I didn’t want anything or that I wanted chocolate, which is consumable, so it wouldn’t be sitting around for too long. I wouldn’t have to worry too much about finding a space for it in my house or my bedroom. Then at some point in the week after Christmas, I would bring stuff I didn’t need, want, or use anymore to Goodwill. I’d clean up everything in preparation for the blank slate of the new year.

The “stuff” doesn’t really matter to me, but sometimes it is hard to get rid of old things because you are reminded of the people who gave them to you—and that is my reasoning for my attachment to “things.” I have no use at all for a cheap plastic mirror, but when my hand hovers over the Goodwill pile ready to drop it in, I picture the face of the sweet lady who gave it to me and the particulars of that Christmas during which I received the gift.

So “giving” and “getting” are about the people and the memories, not the objects. It is easier to give up something I bought for myself than to give up something that someone else got for me. When all the presents are opened and we spend time with the ones who gave them to us, it is those people we need to be thankful for, not the material objects that are only physical representations of how much those people love and care for us.