I was raised a Christian but we never celebrated Christmas. For us, December 25 is just another ordinary day. Its not like we don’t celebrate the day that Christ was born. We just believe that it should be celebrated everyday rather than on a date that isn’t stated in the bible.
So I grew up not participating in Christmas parties, not buying gifts, nor exchanging them.
However, over the last few years I started attending Christmas parties not because its Christmas but because that’s the time when friends gather and have fun. As an expat in Dubai where you have very few relatives and your friends become your family, attending parties like this feels like family gatherings more than anything else.
We were (me and my husband) invited into two gatherings on the 24th. One is engrande, and the other is a much intimate one.
The first party we were invited to was organized by a family, friends of my husband. It was a gathering for 25 people with complete programe, games, singing and dancing and exchanging gifts. We decided to attend this party first since it was supposed to start at 7:30pm. But until we left at 9:30pm, there’s just 5 of us in the venue. We left as we had to attend another one and since there was an exchange gift, we just left the gifts and asked my husband’s friend to just bring along what’s for us.
Later on, I received a gift from someone named Jessica. Someone I have not even met.
A Victoria’s secret gift set.
I did not understand the whole concept of inviting 25 people who don’t even know each other to attend the same party, let alone ask them to exchange gifts with one another. Maybe this is their form of socializing, meeting new people and making new friends and I was just too anti-social (like everyone says so) or maybe because I am not used to attending parties so I felt strange.
I’ve heard that the hosts invited several non-Filipinos to the party. One, who is of a totally different culture who never have heard about Christmas in his entire life, bought a candle for a gift worth 3 Dirhams when the exchange gift was for anything worth at least 50 Dirhams. The person who received the candle commented “anu ba yan, di pa nga ako patay binibigyan na ako ng kandila” (what is this, I am not dead yet but they are already giving me candles). We should really have written down our wish list, at least then we’ll know what to receive.
The exchange gift didn’t really make sense to me.
Exchange gift is accepting and thanking for what you have received, not demanding for what you want. It’s not about compensating the amount you spend for giving something, but for making the person feel glad. – from Anne’s recent post on Exchange Gifts
We headed to the 2nd gathering held at our friend’s house. There was just 7 of us. After having a light dinner, we played Uno, played the guitar, sang 90s OPM songs and had few beers and kapeng barako afterwards (what a combination ha ha). We did exchange some gifts and it was fun.
They gave me plain white mugs because they know I’ll draw on them. Someone received a coffee tray because her hands always trembled while bringing cups from the kitchen. Someone received table mats that suits her wooden table.
These are simple things, not even expensive ones, but makes you feel that you are really remembered.
On the 25th, I received another gift from a friend. A pillow case set. When I thanked her she said “pasensya na, yan lang ang nakayanan” (sorry, that’s all I can afford).
Really, why say sorry for giving a pillow case set?
Sometimes it is difficult to choose and buy a gift to a person who (you feel) has everything already. Or who can buy whatever she/he needs. Or who only buys expensive things. And yes sometimes you’ll think that they might just throw your gift as they can buy better ones anyway.
Yes, its true that they might just set your gift aside as they may not like it but the fact that you made an effort and you’ve let them know that they were remembered is what they’ll appreciate.
Christmas is the season of giving but let us not forget that we can always give a gift to anyone at any given time. It does not have to be on Christmas. The least the person expects a gift, the more he/she gets surprised. The more the effort is appreciated.
Let us also remember that our main reason for giving a gift shouldn’t be because we need to but because we want to.