By Willa Moffatt and Annabelle Zhou,
It’s hard to enjoy the present when you’re scrambling to buy presents. More meaningful religious celebrations take a backseat to gift-giving for many people in the winter holiday season.
Gift-giving is a popular tradition that many people look forward to every year. According to a poll by Gallup, Inc., 93 percent of Americans exchange gifts on Christmas, including many classes at Davis High such as student government, orchestra and jazz choir.
Like many Americans, gift-giving plays a large role in sophomore Tess McDaniel and her family’s Christmas celebrations.
As soon as McDaniel wakes up on Christmas morning, she looks in her stocking and opens presents that have traveled in from relatives living out-of-state. Then the family’s car is packed full of gifts that are brought to her grandparents’ house.
“There are no minimums or maximums on what we spend for each other because no one thinks about whether or not someone spent enough on them. We make it a competition to give each family member the gift they love the most, even if it’s not the most expensive gift they receive,” McDaniel said.
But for others, the holidays have become “this cash flow thing that doesn’t make sense […]” according to teacher Eric Morgan.
“Like if my brother gives me a $50 gift card and I give him a $50 gift card then we’re just trading $50 bills,” Morgan explained. “It’s great to get presents but then you end up with a bunch of random crap you don’t need.”
People are so wrapped up in gifts that they can forget that the spirit of giving does not cost as much.
“[Buying presents] takes away from all the people around us, even here in Davis, who can’t do that, who don’t even have food. The homeless people, the people who are living on the street […] When the weather gets cold and rainy we go inside. What happens to the people who have no inside to go to?” said Reverend Ernie Lewis of The Episcopal Church of St. Martin.
“The thing that makes me sad about how many Americans celebrate Christmas is its emphasis on getting things. The notion that stuff makes you happy, and that if you get enough stuff you’ll have a full life and everything will be fine. And we know that’s ridiculous,” Lewis said.
Non-Christians feel the pressure to give presents as well.
“I think that Christianity shouldn’t have so much influence […],” sophomore Skyler Mikalson said. “Hanukkah was never that serious of a holiday until we [got] here in America […] it didn’t even used to be [that] you gave presents for Hanukkah.”
“My mom feels bad so she always get me presents,” said sophomore Arzoo Manandhar, whose family is Nepalese and does not celebrate Christmas.
The hunt for presents is usually a last minute and rushed process that can be easily prevented.
“So many people say, ‘Oh God, Christmas is next week!’ So they go [to the mall] which is already so crowded you can’t breathe, and they start buying things, and they come out with huge [amounts of merchandise] and when I look at my grandchildren, the younger ones in my family, most of that plastic stuff is broken by New Year’s,” Lewis said.
A significant part of Christmas for Christians that is seldom recognized is the four weeks leading up to Christmas, known as Advent.
“The advantage of Advent is its preparation and I think if people thought a little bit more about the way they’re going to celebrate Christmas, not necessarily that they would do it as Christians, but a period of saying, ‘Wait a minute, how much are are going to spend this year? What can we afford to spend? What are the important things to give?’” Lewis said.
Many Christians like Lewis continue to honor Christmas’ origins.
“Christmas is celebrating and exalting Christ […] Taking Christ out of Christmas is not Christmas at all,” sophomore Michelle Acoba said.
Pre-Christmas preparations are often overlooked; Christmas pageants are commonly performed on Christmas Eve at many churches including The Episcopal Church of St. Martin.
Usually, a live baby is put in the manger in the pageant. One year, there was a pair of twins playing the part of baby Jesus. Their parents sat in the front and when one of them cried, the other twin would be swapped in to take her spot.
“During the course of the service we had a couple of different babies, so that’s always fun,” Lewis said.
In addition to a pageant, the church also holds an evening jazz mass and a midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
“Then we have another service on Christmas Day, and the very interesting thing is on the day itself the service is really small. Christmas Eve is packed, every seat taken […] Is everybody so busy eating and opening presents that they forget what the [holiday] is about?” Lewis said.