Hazy shade of winter

OK, Christmas is over. Can we talk a minute?

Christmas—the gift-buying, receiving and commercial holiday, not the religious one—is one of those times of year when very few people are happy.

Religious conservatives sought this year to force religion into the retail outlets, declaring that liberals were conducting “a war on Christmas.”

It seems some rich are not rich enough, qualifying their enjoyment of Christmas with whether they received enough gifts, whether they bought enough gifts, whether they can discuss the amount of money they put on their credit cards.

Children, whose measurement of greed comes in unattainable 15-second television spots, often end up disappointed when they go to school and their new garments aren’t as good as some of their peers, when their own Christmas success is counted by the number of gifts, when some realize for the first time that their parents have been lying to them all these years about a certain red-dressed someone.

And then there are those people whose expression of “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” is spent on a competition to see who can waste the most of our planet’s precious resources on conspicuous consumption of electricity—while people in this country freeze to death every year because waste increases consumption, which decreases supply and raises prices—and puts people on the economic edge into a living hell.

And then, of course, there are the excluded—the Jews, the Muslims, the various sects of Christianity, the pagans, the poor—the vast majority of people in this world who don’t fit into the middle-class American view of commercial celebration of the winter solstice.

Who, in the week following the three-day weekend, isn’t talking about how they ate too much or drank too much or inappropriately gifted? Think about it: Didn’t you really have more conversations about how the gifts you bought for other people felt inadequate? There’s a simple reason for that: Love, friendship and appreciation simply can’t be symbolized with a socially-encouraged gift; attempting to do so simply cheapens the true feelings.

Nothing is going to change between now and Dec. 25 of next year because of anything we have to say disparaging this second-most blessed of holidays, but come on, can’t we have some kind of equity in the work place if not in the shopping districts?

Next year, let’s make a plan. A lot of embarrassment and rug-burnt feelings could be avoided if there’s a policy in place at work. This doesn’t mean Christmas bonuses need to be dispensed with; it simply means that if everybody has a game plan, those happy, generous feelings can be assuaged, while generating good—not inadequate—feelings. Next year, have a gift exchange. Buy or make one gift with a value of less than $10. Put it in a pool; draw numbers. People who feel they must express their greater love and generosity can deliver larger gifts to the object of their affection’s home.

And maybe the season will be a little merrier for everyone.