Editorial: Joy of giving lost

If there was ever any doubt we've lost our way when it comes to Christmas, it has just been confirmed.

Canterbury researcher Paul Ballantine says that for most people, Christmas shopping is considered more like work, rather than pleasure.

And it would seem he's not even looking at the financial stress that Christmas brings - which is in a category all of its own - but more the pressure of purchasing the perfect gift.

So, put aside all that "Tis the season to be jolly" and "fa la la-ing" and start stressing out now about the reaction to your carefully-chosen gifts on Christmas morning.

These days, it seems, it's not enough to have been thought of enough for someone to have spent time and money on a gift, now it's got to be the perfect gift, otherwise - as Mr Ballantine says - it's likely to end up in the "unwanted gifts" section of Trade Me, or carefully returned to its wrapper and regifted.

Mr Ballantine says that evidence that gift-giving isn't always successful increases the feeling for some that they will get it wrong, and adds to the stress.

Which isn't very jolly at all, really.

And, some might feel, is actually pretty rude.

But it does raise some interesting questions about who we're buying presents for.

None of us like to get a gift that isn't really "us". But our nearest and dearest know who we are, and what we like, and what we need. So, they're not likely to be the ones getting it wrong.

So, who is? Could it be that we've gone overboard with the present shopping? Are we buying presents for people we don't know?

And if so, why?

Yes, sometimes we buy a gift for someone we don't know that well, but that's what flash boxes of chocolate and fancy bottles of wine are for. That's not the time to try to give that personal gift - because that's when it goes wrong.

It's Christmas, not rocket science.

So, maybe it's time we started remembering what Christmas is supposed to be about. It's an important time on the Christian calendar, but if you're not of a religious bent, at the very least, it's a time for family and friends, and yes, for giving gifts.

It's not supposed to be a competition, nor the most stressful time of the year. No-one should be fearful that their gifts are going to be spurned.

After all, it's supposed to be better to give than to receive.

And if it's not well received, you'd have to start asking just why you're giving.

The Timaru Herald