Overrated Things - The Holiday Edition

Installment #7

19. Wrapping paper. When I was a young lad, I was taught in school to "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." My parents had a compost heap out back. We did our best. Or so I liked to think, until Christmas came, and with it the annual giant garbage bag of wrapping paper, headed for the garbage instead of a recycling bin.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that we shouldn't use wrapping paper because it's wasteful, which it is. I'm arguing we shouldn't use wrapping paper because it's
stupid. We spend hours wrapping mounds of presents, to have the careful cutting- and taping-jobs destroyed in seconds. It irritates me more than most things that will appear on this list. Ever. That's why my wife wraps everything that's not for herself.

It should be outlawed. Just fold up the effing bag the gift came in, and give it as-is, and leave me alone already about the ten million different kinds of cute wrapping paper I could choose. After this year, I'm using brown paper bags, untorn: that way, when we're done, we can use the bags as trash cans for all the wrapping paper.

20. Christmas cards. (Thank-you cards can included here) The idea of Christmas cards has
Fight Club written all over it. Basically, there's just something wrong with bite-sized, obligatory tokens of friendship. If you really care about the recipients, call them and have a real conversation. I find the whole concept degrading to the honest ideals of human interaction. It's what the Daily Show might call "friendship inaction." These, too, should be outlawed.

21. Santa Claus. I know, this is obvious, but I mean, get real: a guy in a red suit who flies in a sleigh pulled by reindeer? I think not. I grew up knowing my gifts were coming from my parents, so I was never disappointed when Santa didn't come through, because I knew he DIDN'T FREAKING EXIST. I just want someone to explain to me why it's better that children think someone who will, inevitably, turn out to be non-existant is giving them things for no reason. Is that so much to ask?

In the meantime... that's right: the very idea should be outlawed.


Blogger a.b.smith said...

oh, bah humbug....
Comon, you have to admit the relational nature of wrapping paper.. at least to those who enjoy doing it. Not everything in this life boils down to efficiency. Sometimes the time and care of wrapping can show love in a great way, especially to those who feel loved from gifts and in this case the wasted paper is an "acceptable" cost for the relational benefit.
And cards are the same way as long as you don't get caught up in the whole obligation deal (you gave me a card I must give you a card). Unfortunately that is the case with most cards. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (sorry for the cliche).

3:31 PM  
Blogger matt said...

"you have to admit the relational nature of wrapping paper.. at least to those who enjoy doing it."

do i? seems to me this relates to another post of mine today. perhaps my miserly attitude towards wrapping paper and cards lies in my Christmas experiences thus far. year in and year out, each has been thrust before me as obligatory, while merely serving to detract me from something i have always held closer to my heart: the relational Everyday (think "Everyman"). i spend countless hours during the year thinking of how to better my relationship with those i care for; so, as certain abbreviated methods of an obligatory relational nature have been repeatedly prescribed, i have met them with only frustration and indignance.

it's like i say about valentine's day: i love my wife, and she loves me, so why do we need to set aside a day to display it and make the singles feel bad about themselves? special gestures, to me, mean more when they are not couched in a forced tradition. relationships are organic, so why should the display of a positive, healthy relationship be anything but?

i know, i know: i'm becoming a curmudgeon before my time, but take heart, cousin: at this point, i'm still only half-serious ;)

3:49 PM  
Blogger Emily Smith said...

The two of you could talk circles around one another...
I have nothing to add to this particular discussion, but would love to know what your wife thinks of your conclusions!

1:52 PM  
Blogger a.b.smith said...

I admit, that things are often taken too far... and for that reason, many holidays (Christmas and valentine's day) are celebrated in their respective forms largely out of guilt. While I think this is a tragedy I don't think that you can write off the beauty of these holidays because of their misuse. Think of it like this (I can't believe I'm using this analogy, forgive me): it's much like the human form. God created it to be beautiful, right? but many have cheapened it through lust and capitalism in the pornography indstry... but that doesn't cheapen what it was meant to be, it just means we have to celebrate that beauty in the correct environment and for the right purposes.
Now I know God didn't create holidays, but he did create us to be people that value benchmarks and traditions in life. So I think Christmas (and Valentines day, though I agree it's effect on singles is enough to warrant boycott) have their place in our lives to bring meaning and to create positive lasting memories even in the midst of a society where these have been degraded. That's the nature of God. Revitalization, Restoration, Redemption... bringing good out of even what the world has stripped (punn intended).

6:16 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

christmas is overrated. ooh, yeah, i went there. didn't see that one coming. it's 99% glitter, crowds and inconveniences dumped over the 1% that is worthwhile. i'm certainly all for the birth of christ, charity. compassion and getting together with family, etc...but i think m-dawg's right, the moments when christmas truly shows itself appear as tiny fractures of light breaking through a rapidly accelerating black orb (perhaps this would make a good symbolic ornament). if people want to wish me a merry christmas then just give me a call; my cell phone is on everyday from about 7am until 11pm. ask me how i'm doing or what i've been up to lately. i'd certainly perfer a conversation to some generic blurb and a 7th-rate drawing.

11:34 PM  
Blogger matt said...

here's the thing: God wants us to value some things, yes. things He created/did, especially; i'd call those things religious observances. once, we had Christmas, one such religious observance. now, we have christmas/xmas, a largely secular humanist, capitalist observance that almost completely overshadows in the eyes and minds and hearts of the general public what once was (and yes, i even mean those who think the true meaning of christmas is a largely humanist observance, a watered down warm-fuzzy feeling festival that's all about being nice and having a good time with relatives - Christmas is about more than that).

so what is Christmas/christmas/xmas, exactly? is it religious or secular? my idea here is that, as perception is reality*, Christmas/christmas/xmas is comprised of many realities, the majority of which, at least in this country, are not aligned with my own. it seems to me, then, safe to say that yes, josh, christmas/xmas is wildly overrated. Christmas, however, is still one of the most beautiful of religious observances.

my frustration, then, lies mainly with the the obscene proliferation of secular barnacles attached to what is otherwise a beautiful time of year. i dislike performing activities (wrapping gifts, writing christmas cards) that remind me that the birth of my Lord is now forced to carry upon its back, as an event, too-heavy secular baggage. i give gifts to people who are special to me, not so i can buy cute new wrapping paper or use up the old; i commune with those who are close to me, not so i can say "merry christmas," but so i can enjoy fellowship (as my college roommate would say). my problem lies in the fact that, because i don't enjoy wrapping gifts or writing cards for the sake of the activities (some people do, and that's wonderful - but some people also like buffalo wings, also fine, but they're not something you'll catch me eating anytime soon), i cannot enjoy them, for my idea that they detract (again, for me) from what i perceive (and what becomes my reality) to be the true joys of Christmastime.

so please, all who enjoy the usual activities: wrap and enjoy, write/receive cards and enjoy - i, too, will be engaged in the same activities. rest assured, though, i will not easily be swayed from my opinion that Christmas is a simple observance, or should be. and though it will not likely be celebrated simply in my lifetime (again, yay america), there is very little about what has become christmas that is important to me for its own sake (let's be honest, i have a wife and i'm going to have children. just because something isn't ideologically important to me doesn't mean it can't be fun being with people who are enraptured by the activities, and myself become enraptured. these are not ideals i will die for, and though they are, in my mind, logically sound, in practice they become little more than curmudgeonly).

(*disclaimer: while i assert here that perception=reality, i would like to point out an amendment to that assertion: there are two co-existing realities for every perceiver: 1) God's Reality - all of existence, as He perceives all things, and of which the perceiver is a part, and 2) the perceiver's reality - all of that with which the perceiver comes in direct of indirect contact: a finite portion of Reality. while all the universe does indeed exist continually as God's perceived Reality, my portioned existence only allows me to perceive a fraction of that Reality, which becomes my functional reality.

all that to say, i am not supporting any form of relativism. each individual perceiver's functional reality is very different from every other perceiver's functional reality, but each such reality is a part of a whole Reality, and never deviates from the whole.)

10:53 AM  

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