My friend BTG, the self-proclaimed “old fart” (who is young enough to know better), recently posted a very nice blog wishing his wife a happy birthday. It made me think about birthdays and the way we have come to celebrate them in this country of late. The attached comic (which I will probably get in trouble for using while at the same time I thank “Go Comics” for allowing me to post it) pretty much says it all. But that never stopped me from ruminating on the subject a bit.

Thanks to "Go Comics"

“For Better Or For Worse”

The notion that a person should receive a present — or multiple presents– for a birthday is, on the face of it, ridiculous. The one who should receive the present is the mother of that person. After all, she was the one who endured the pain and agony of delivering the child into the world and, in all likelihood, pretty much raised him or her all by herself. As a rule, husbands seem to have so much to do that takes them away from the raising of children, causing them later in life to regret spending so much time away from their kids. I know that was true in my case. It all seemed so important at the time, whereas I have come to realize that what was important was being with my kids as they grew up and helping my wife turn them into the remarkable young men they are today. In any event, the kids should give their mothers presents. After the kids grow up the presents should stop — along with counting the years!

And as far as parties go — as the comic suggests — it has gotten out of hand. In fact, my wife and I refuse to participate in the orgy of parties that have become a contest among families; we simply send the grandchildren their presents and leave it at that. We love our grandchildren, but are convinced the whole spectacle of parties has gotten way out of hand, with hired clowns and princesses escalating their way to bigger is better. The giving of presents and the hosting of parties simply expands the whole materialistic ethos that permeates this country and has in large measure brought us to our present impasse where money and “things” have become the idol worshipped in nearly every house in this land.

Many of us have come to realize that the way we celebrate Christmas is all wrong. Perhaps it is time to turn our attention to birthdays. Let us embrace our loved ones and tell them we are happy to have had them with us for another year. Or perhaps post a blog telling them how much we love them and take them out for a nice dinner. But let’s let is go at that. It should be about love and the delight we have in knowing those we love are still with us. It shouldn’t be about giving someone a scarf or a ball point pen and getting caught up in the competition of throwing a bigger party than the Smiths did last year. And don’t get me started about all those “holidays” Hallmark has invented to sell their cards!

Santa Lives!

The story began:

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The young father stood in line at the Kmart layaway counter, wearing dirty clothes and worn-out boots. With him were three small children.

He asked to pay something on his bill because he knew he wouldn’t be able to afford it all before Christmas. Then a mysterious woman stepped up to the counter.

“She told him, ‘No, I’m paying for it,'” recalled Edna Deppe, assistant manager at the store in Indianapolis. “He just stood there and looked at her and then looked at me and asked if it was a joke. I told him it wasn’t, and that she was going to pay for him. And he just busted out in tears.”

At Kmart stores across the country, Santa seems to be getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers’ layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn’t afford, especially toys and children’s clothes set aside by impoverished parents.

Amazing story. Apparently there is a number of similar stories of generosity at KMart stores around the country — with no hidden agendas, apparently. For some reason, the donors seem to focus on that chain (perhaps because KMart is struggling to survive in the contest with Target and Walmart). But whatever the reason, it is heartwarming to know that there are good people who want to do something at this time of year besides open presents.

I must say, I grow in my distaste for what we call “the Christmas spirit,” which seems to me to be antithetical to what a celebration of the birth of Christ should be all about. And when I think of the real need around the world that could be met with such generosity, I do wonder about our priorities. The purchase of toys for American children doesn’t seem to me to be terribly important, in the grand scheme of things. There are people in this country and all over the world who can’t put food on the table at Christmas time or any other time, for that matter. But when I read of this sort of thing it does make the cynic in me take a back seat and just feel good for the kids who will be having a merry Christmas. And perhaps even more gratifying is the thought that there are some very generous people out there who just want to make the world a better place. Let’s hope their generosity doesn’t begin and end at this time of the year.