Saturday, May 07, 2005

Legitimate Holidays

I don't think anyone would argue that the whole retail industry could not survive as well as it is without the non-stop slew of holidays they now enjoy. A few of these holidays have legitimate reasons for existence and even fewer have legitimate reasons for gift giving. Other than Christmas, a holiday with its historical origins based in the wise men giving gifts, I see no reason for gifts elsewhere.

It just so happens Mother's day is coming up (in 1 hour). I know I have the greatest mom in the world, and she deserves to be treated as nothing less. Does that mean I should spend $100 on a new necklace for her? No. Should a gift even be required? No. In my perfect world a thoughtful act would go further than a gift. But thanks to commercialism I'm a bad son if I don't spend money on something she doesn't need. I'm only using Mother's day as an example because it is so immediate. And yes, I did buy my mom a present.

So am I the only anti-gift on for no reason on holidays person out there? If not how do you address this problem? Is it even a problem? What are the other "legitimate" gifting holidays if there are any?


Anonymous Anarchy Andy said...

You raise an interesting question. In a post-modern world, are we bound by cultural traditions, such as honoring our mothers' with gifts once every 365 days, or are we free to reject these arbitrary social norms. If one were going to argue in favor of the Mother's Day tradition, they might point out the universality of cultural occasions marked by the exchange of gifts. In fact, Americans seem to engage in gift giving far less than do individuals in many other countries I could name. From the standpoint of egalitarian distributive justice, one might make the obvious assertion that a tradition obligating an annual token of appreciation to an individual whom has benefited us with innumerous material and emotional gifts, as well as life itself, is more than warranted.

I agree with you that in our highly prosperous culture, material gifts can often hold little value. However, I would question the assertion that gift giving on Mother's Day is somehow less legitimate than Christmas, due to the historical reference to gifts in the classic nativity story. The decision to honor this event by exchanging gifts with our loved ones is no less arbitrary than the Mother's Day tradition. One could just as easily commemorate the biblical story by giving gifts only to newborns or bathing in frankincense. In fact, according to the Bible, the magi didn't even reach Jesus until 2 months to 2 years after his birth. Not to mention, gift giving was a well established component of the pagan holidays from which our Christmas traditions developed in the fifth century.

So in conclusion, just buy your mom some stupid cookie cutters you miserly cheapskate.

5/15/2005 6:09 PM  
Blogger david said...

First of all, thank you for your insight and frankness.

Granted certain cultural norms regarding gift giving exist in countries other that manifest themselves in ways far beyond that which Americans are accustomed, but does that lend credibility to the act of gifting? A similar argument is routinely proposed by adolescent socializes justifying late curfews: "If everyone else is doing it, why can't I?" The simple adoption of an act does not justify its existence.

You make an excellent point questioning the validity of Christmas. I never before thought of gift giving as a heathenistic activity. Perhaps I was too quick to speak when I added that to my list of legitimate gifting holidays.

Finally, as stated in my original post, I am very grateful to my mother for all she has done and did indeed purchase her a fine gift with which she was pleased. My intent is not to abolish such traditions and norms, but to not blindly accept their existence without first calling into question their value.

5/16/2005 8:18 PM  

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