Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy holidays

This is my column today.

As I write, the whole house is being merrily turned upside down and inside out the way only little children can. There are eight children in the house—nephews and nieces—and they are bouncing off walls, sliding down the staircase, rearranging furniture, and generally testing the overall resilience of beds, chairs, and everything that’s in their way.

In addition, there are four teenagers—also nephews and nieces—who have not left their places in front of the computer and DVD player in the last 38 hours seemingly impervious to the ruckus being created by the younger set of children. How today’s teenagers can stay glued to Facebook for 24 hours or be able to watch DVD copies of all the seasons of Gossip Girl non-stop in one sitting is a mystery that I have yet to fathom.

The adults—cousins and siblings —have so far been happily content with just lounging around the kitchen whenever they are actually in the house (most of the time, they are in some mall or tiangge trying to finish what so far has seemed like a race without a finish line—Christmas shopping!). Why adults tend to congregate at the kitchen or at the dining area is probably a reflection of the relative value we attach to the various aspects of Christmas. For kids, it’s the fun and enjoyment from toys and playtime. For teenagers, it’s time spent on various personal pursuits. For adults, it’s food and booze.

By tomorrow evening, Christmas eve, the whole house will be bursting to the seams with more relatives and friends expected to converge for the annual madness we call the Christmas get-together. Like in years past, there will be anarchy; which is how we celebrate Christmas from as far back as I can remember.

There will be lots of food, glorious food; the type of which we’ve been sworn to avoid by doctors. There will be massive consumption of alcohol, which we all know will pickle our livers. There will be lots of gifts many of which are stuff we already have or don’t need—how many USB flash drives, picture frames, planners, and coffee mugs do we really need, anyway?

There are many things about Christmas that bring out the best and the worst in all of us. Christmas can be stressful and hazardous to our health, not to mention a strain on our finances. But there are also many things about Christmas that are just too marvelous for words, which probably explains why we all are just too willing to submit to the whole frenzy every year despite the hassle and the aggravation.

One of the paradoxes of the season is this concept of gift giving. The idea behind it is supposed to be one of selflessness. The common admonition is that it’s supposed to be “the thought” that counts rather than the actual gift. However, the reality is that gift giving actually forces one to evaluate one’s relationships. The more special or valuable the relationship, the more effort or money goes into the gift. The practice in many companies, in fact, is to classify clients or customers according to the size of their business transactions with the company. Obviously, the more business a client brings in to a company, the more expensive the gift he or she gets from the company.

Some do a cop-out by opting to have just one variety of gift—known as a giveaway—to give to everyone. It used to be fruitcakes, which eventually gave way to bottles of red wine. Fortunately, the range of products has since then expanded to include varieties of cakes, cookies, and native delicacies. It’s democratic but it does take away the romance and the essence of gift giving, which is that some “thought” is supposed to go with the gift. It’s difficult to feel “valued” when one is receiving a generic gift that one knows has been sent out to 300 other people.

Fortunately, we live in an era characterized by extreme consumerism so there’s now a product and a service for anything and anyone. There are actually business enterprises and individuals that will do the shopping for you, wrap the gifts, and deliver them to the intended beneficiaries. As can be expected, the convenience does not come cheap. It can be argued that hiring a personal shopper also dilutes the essence of gift giving, but then again, credit may also be given to the fact that one went out of his or her way to hire an expert shopper just to find that perfect gift for you.

I wrote about Christmas party themes the other year and since then people have been asking me to make an update on unique and unusual themes that I came across or have heard of. I suppose there are people out there who attach a lot of value in these things because there remained a lot of inquiries in my various email groups about what themes other companies or groups were having for their parties.

Quickly, here are the more unusual themes that I encountered this year: A wedding reception party where guests picked out roles in a wedding and dressed appropriately (the games were also related to the rituals around a wedding reception such as the throwing of the bouquet and the garter), a “naughty or nice” party where people came dressed like they were attending their first communion or going to a wild drunken party, and an Elections 2010 party. The last one required attendees to dress up in the colors of the 2010 presidential candidate they were voting for. I came in a rainbow-colored attire because I still haven’t made up my mind. I was surprised to find that the number of people wearing blue and orange were almost equal to the number of people wearing yellow although the yellows still dominated the room.

I was pleased to note that quite a number of people seemed intent on adopting a theme somehow related to protecting the environment. I made an observation in one of my email groups that if people really intended to adopt an environment-friendly theme, it required going beyond wearing green t-shirts and necessitated that people eschew using styropor or plastic materials. I guess most reconsidered their original plan.

2 comments:

Aris said...

Hello Bong. Merry Christmas! :)

Bong C. Austero said...

Hi aris! Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones as well.