I believe they were turning on the Christmas lights in Belfast tonight, five weeks before Christmas. Since I posted the other day, I've been thinking some more about the whole gift-giving thing.
Specifically, I thought about how this time of year, for my family, has been the time of the 'big' gift, the thing you'd really like to have but can't get (or can't justify getting) for yourself. There's something cool about that, but at the same time it requires a bit of a pause for thought, and in my pause I remembered a friend from Edinburgh.
This guy did something once that raised a few eyebrows among those who know him. A guitarist, when he decided to concentrate on the acoustic instrument for a while he began to dispose of all his electric gear — guitars, amps, effects. Some got sold on, but some was given away to others. (Full disclosure: I have in my possession a couple of very nice bits of gear he gifted me. I'm still humbled by it.) Any musicians out there will know that putting your kit together can be expensive in terms of cash, of effort and of time, so this was not an insignificant thing for him to do.
I remember some wondering if he had thought it through, and the occasional muttering about these young folks not knowing the value of things, of money, of... whatever.
Then and now, I realised that the opposite was true. He got it exactly. The material value of things, of money, of... is fleeting. This guy was of the opinion that he wasn't using the gear, and someone else could. He knew that to have the right attitude was to hold on lightly, because at the end of the day it's just stuff, you know?
Which brings me back to the giving of gifts at Christmas. I say that the extravagant gift-giving is cool not for the "Wahey! Look what I got!" factor, but for the "Wow. Look what you gave." factor. Only one of the many ways we try to express care and love for each other as we celebrate Christmas in the West, this is maybe where we're most prone to getting sidetracked by the medium and forgetting the message. Its meaning and beauty is in the sacrifice and intent of the giver.
Now where've I heard that before?