Monday, December 15, 2008

To Pile On or Not To Pile On

Tonight I took a gander (not goose-related) at the HTF mailbag to see who's been naughty (those who never post comments or submit questions) and who's been nice (everyone else).  Here was one of the festive questions I found, appropriately titled "X-mas Excess":


I'd like to gain your perspective on Christmas - and the pile of presents stacked around the house the day after.  Are the presents a distraction to what Christmas should be about, a way to show those around us how much we appreciate them (in a materialistic sense), or something else I'm completely missing?  The day after I find myself toggling between "all these presents are just way overboard" and "look at the kids faces and the memories a great Christmas has provided them".  Any wisdom you can shed is much appreciated.


My friend, that's a marvelous question, and it's one that plagues millions of parents.  First let me say that you certainly don't need to buy me a huge pile of presents.  I'm good with a small mound.  But for perspective on this one we need to remember what Christmas used to be like before we got into this never-ending holiday-gift-giving-arms-war.  Way back when, by which I mean WAY BACK even before the internet, families would gather around a not-particularly-impressive potted plant on Christmas Eve.  (This, of course, evolved into our current tradition of chopping down entire forests of perfectly healthy trees and putting them in our living rooms the way nature intend.)  But in the old days the families would sit down, sing a few songs, and instead of exchanging presents, they'd simply give each other a series of verbal compliments.  However, as you might imagine doing this in your own family, these compliments could get just a little back-handed.  For example:

- Mom might say to the teenage boy, "Merry Christmas, Joey.  You are doing so well on learning to drive.  I like that our mailbox is now a hood ornament on your car."  OR

- Dad might say to Mom, "Merry Christmas, Honey.  I reviewed our insurance records and your cooking, with the resulting ER visits, helped us get to our out-of-pocket deductible much quicker this year."

At this point Mom reaches for the nearby lump of coal and flings it at Dad's jolly head.  Now you all know where the festive little "lump of coal" (good name for a rock band) tradition comes from.  So times were simpler then, and clearly better.  All the gifts we do now are a perfectly acceptable substitute for conversation and in some cases they do make for great memories, particularly the ones that you spend several weeks assembling and the ones that break before your Christmas Day nap.  (but those can be some pricey memories)  So as you toggle (great word choice by the way) this holiday season between the massive pile of happiness you will bequeath on the kids and the realization that you are, in fact, WAY overdoing it - try this - substitute a few of the gifts for some heartfelt words of love.  And after your kids have forgiven you, take them directly to the toy store. 

Thanks for the question!!

You too can get a "response" to your question like BP.  Send 'em in to


Anonymous said...

I'm all for not piling it on!

rlsecor said...

Would like to hear more from Mom, Dad and Joey and any other siblings with kindly words for their family members - that was a good laugh. Could be a good sitcom, or a comic strip...

I am all for not piling it on - in fact I'm all for doing something else altogether! We don't write letters to Santa, or make Christmas wish lists and I still hear whining, complaining and I want, I want, I want.... UGH!

Gifts are anti-climatic and they don't make our lives any better they just give us more work to do in maintenance, storage, reasons to bicker...

Seriously, the toy store AFTER Christmas, if you are going to spoil the little rug rats and provide more knock down drag 'em out op's - then you might as well save a heap in the process.

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