Tis the season of gift giving.  Gifts can be big, they can be small.  They can be homemade or store bought.  They can be spread out over eight days or heaped in one big pile under a tree.  They can be sentimental, tacky, bad, funny or just what one needs.  However, I have great difficulty in understanding the importance of gifts to some people.  We are, by all means, a society built upon capitalism, but consumerism is a beast of a different sort and it has distorted what it means to celebrate the holidays.

A recent news segment showcased people who have set up tents outside of retailers days before Black Friday.  These people, who will be missing Thanksgiving (which may be the intention for some), are excited about repeating what has become a grand tradition.  Now I love hiking and camping and the outdoors, but a tent on asphalt so that I can be first to buy a video game is not my idea of getting in touch with nature.  What does this relatively new sense of tradition say about our culture?  As I watch television or read the news and see tents, sleeping bags and massive lines at midnight, or horrifically before midnight on Thanksgiving, I don’t see the joy of the beginning of the holiday season.  I see the workers who have to show up to brave the hordes of shoppers, who miss time they’d rather be spending with loved ones because if they didn’t show up they could loose their jobs and might not be able to put food on a table, let alone buy gifts for anyone.  I think of these people who line up to buy gifts because that’s how they prioritize their lives.  I even think of the people who have to show up at the television and radio stations to push buttons so that I can watch the Thanksgiving Day parade from the comfort of my sofa while sipping coffee and playing with my children, thinking of the family I will get to see later and the wonderful meal that we will enjoy.

I do realize some people line up to buy things to later sell them, thus making money they can later spend on the gifts they really want to give.  I also realize some relish the crowds and the battle of the store.  Some even see it as small sacrifice, a means of doing all of their holiday shopping in one big bang giving them more time to spend at home leading up to the end of December.  I can at least abide this last rationalization.  However, none of it is for me and I feel a sense of duty to avoid extreme holiday shopping late on Thanksgiving and obscenely early on Black Friday to protest those who are obligated to work by the will of corporate greed and overblown commercialism.  There is more to life and happiness.

The only gift that you can’t box and wrap is time.  The gift of time is something extremely precious and if you want to spend it in a tent outside of a store, that’s up to you.  I for one intend to use mine to be with my loved ones, to eat, to laugh and be merry.  I wish you all the same.