Escape from Christendom

Ticket to Ride

I have always tried to escape the U.S. for one-or-another non-Christian country at Christmas time.  I detest the ubiquity of horrible music and bad good-cheer. But what I really loathe, above all, is the exchange of gifts.

I am not alone, of course, in decrying the crass materialism of Christmas. But how many Christians actually act on this seemingly widely-held revulsion and boycott Christmas giving? And how many non-Christians feel compelled to participate in the annual shop-and-swap madness?

Most succumb. Some will make charitable donations in the name of family and friends, which is a constructive variant on the tradition. A few will take the more personally engaged step of making a gift of service. But almost nobody seems willing to take a critical look at what passes for big-heartedness at this time of year. After all, what could be bad about giving?


In my view, the trained-seal munificence of ritual gift giving at Christmas time does not meaningfully teach or propagate the principle of generosity. Rather than engage in this annual orgy of forced consumption, materialism, and resource depletion, it would be heartening to see us practicing simpler forms generosity and compassion year-round – with our loved ones, with acquaintances, and with those we’ve never met.

There are eleven more shopping-days until Christmas – still plenty of time to catch a plane for Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Lahore, Mumbai, Bangkok, Kyoto, and a zillion other wonderful, Christmas-free locations.


1 Response to “Escape from Christendom”

  1. 1 Jennifer 29 December 2006 at 1:24 am

    You say this… but obviously you have never received the Deluxe version of Scrabble as a gift. I was like you, pooh-poohing the whole gift giving/receiving thing until I opened that one gift this year. I know my eyes lit up and the grin must have exposed every tooth in my mouth. Raised grid to keep tiles in place, turntable board, fancy bag to hold the brand new tiles (no missing or extra letters in this one, no sir)… hell, it even comes with an official Scrabble score pad. I’ve always wanted this but felt it way too luxurious for me to purchase for myself. The 30 year old, coffee stained version was working out ok.

    So Mr. Grinch, you may want to pop in on the festivities every once in a while.

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