Time to put the gifts on pause?

Martha Muzychka
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The post-Easter chocolate haze is probably dissipating by the time you read this, a sugar high that might only be exceeded by that of Halloween.

Don’t get me wrong: I love chocolate, and the higher the quality, the better it is. My child’s Easter candy (and usually Halloween too) was safe, partly because I draw the line at poaching my child’s treats, but mostly because bunny- and egg-shaped confections are, for the most part, pretty dreadful excuses for chocolate.

During my seasonal cleanups, I would often find a headless bunny in the treat cupboard, months after the holiday and into the bin it would go. Or I would open the drawer and there I’d find a small sack of still unopened Halloween treats, quietly dessicating in their abandonment.

While I don’t like wasting food or other goods, I never really minded this loss. It wasn’t good to start with, and less sugar consumed is always better. However, in retrospect, I think I escaped lightly.

I could be forgiven for thinking that Easter Sunday was actually Christmas Day. The snow covering everything with a pristine blanket of white was one indicator that the seasons were out of kilter. The other indicator was the steady flow of photos revealing the Easter Bunny’s diligence in finding small humans to delight with not just chocolate in vast quantities, but toys, too.  

What people choose to do is one thing; what they feel compelled to do is another. I think celebrating, or not celebrating as the case may be, any holiday any way you choose is fine by me.

No, the issue that worries me is the recasting of almost any major and minor holiday as an opportunity for gifts. This is a trend that is rapidly growing, and with it, there is increasing pressure on families to buy in to the whole scene without perhaps taking a moment to think about what it really means.

Presents came twice a year in my childhood: birthdays and Christmas.

Graduation from university came with a special dinner. Sometimes little treats came our way as a result of a family member’s visit. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were marked with handmade gifts and cards, and later, when we were older, a little more special as our means increased.

The same thing with cards: birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, thank-you notes, get well cards, and condolence or sympathy cards.

It’s all different these days. Now you can send a card for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and St. Patrick’s, too. And gifts arrive for all occasions: Kindergarten graduation, dancing school recital, midterm report cards, and so on.

Are we creating a culture of expectation and entitlement? Are we raising a generation of humans who think every occasion, large and small, deserves recognition with a gift?

What about the pressure on parents who cannot afford to go all out? When the Easter Bunny starts looking like Santa, when leprechauns start leaving chocolate gold, and when elves move into your house behaving like miniature sergeant majors, is it time that we take a breath and say let’s push the pause button?

Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant living

and working in St. John’s. Email:socialnotes@gmail.com.

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  • That Idiot
    April 23, 2014 - 02:49

    Amid all that Easter spending I forgot to pick up Earth Day gifts for everyone.