Christmas gifts

Christmas gifts

It’s common to complain about the drudgery of Christmas shopping and the obligations imposed on us for gift-giving, such that it becomes less an act of charity than it is an exercise of wealth distribution. But in her usual way of cutting to the heart of things, Peggy Noonan reminds us why children, at least, should be the objects of Christmas gift-giving.

Is there a moral to this memory? What it taught me, what I remember all these years later, is that everyone likes gifts but no one is more affected by their power than children. They are susceptible to wonder. A child can look at a red toy car in the red-green glow of Christmas tree lights and imagine an entire lifetime. A child can play with a new doll and smell good things being cooked and hear sweet music and it can make that child imagine that life is good, which gives her a template for good, a category for good; it helps her know good exists. This knowledge comes in handy in life; those who do not receive it, one way or another, are sadder than those who do.

I think of one Christmas, when I was maybe 10 years old, coming downstairs at about 5 am, long before I or anyone else was supposed to be up, and staring at the beautiful Christmas tree, lights aglow, the living room literally overflowing with presents. (It was a small living room for a seven-person family.) I sat there for hours just taking it all in, it seemed miraculous and so special that I wanted to preserve it. It was unspoilt goodness, the result of hours and days of preparations and love by my parents and my brothers and sisters. In the stillness of pre-dawn Christmas, I too felt the presence of the God who became a baby.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli