A Winter Wonderland

November 30, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Anthony Carnovale

You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout; I’m telling you why:

Black Friday is Here: Get Up To 40% Off Your Purchases. What possible reason could you have to cry? To pout? Stressed about climate change? Cyber Monday Ends Tonight! War in the Middle East breaking your heart? Having to decide between this month’s mortgage payment and tonight’s dinner? Don’t stress, man. Santa Claus is coming to town. Tis the season to feel jolly, folly, holly, la-la-la. Phooey.  

I am not in a celebratory mood, my friends. I imagine the only difference between me and most of you is that I’m saying it out loud and sharing it with the 63 people who will read this column. I’m just not feeling it. My kids, on the other hand, have been looking forward to Christmas since they threw off their Hallowe’en costumes. And herein lies my problem.

The other night, I’m watching a news story about the exchange of hostages between Israel and Hamas, and three minutes later, I’m being asked to sign up for a gift exchange with colleagues at my work. It’s hard for me to celebrate the holidays when the lives of so many people are being upended all over the world. How can I be excited about presents under the tree when there are reports of thousands of dead bodies buried beneath the rubble in Gaza?

I’m trying to keep things in perspective. I’d like for us, as a family, to spend within a modest budget. One thing I’ve tried is to do is give gifts that will introduce something new to someone (it’s like giving two gifts for the price of one). If someone likes Tim Horton’s coffee, I’ll buy them a gift certificate to Mochaberry. If somebody likes fast food pizza, I’ll take them out to Craft Pizza (if you’re going to give, give local). My son thinks that’s a horrible approach to gift-giving. He says I have to give the person what they want, not what I think they need. There is no win in this game, man. I’ve also told my children I don’t want gifts. I tell them to take the money and donate it to the Food Bank (which has seen a 33% increase in demand this past year). I tell them I have enough. To which my daughter responds: “Well, we can still get you gifts because you’re such a special dad!”

I mean, what do you say to that?

This: “I’m a special dad because of the gift that you are.”

She smirks and gives me a sheepish look. “You’re just being silly, daddy!”

No, I’m not Ruby; I’m not. I’m just not telling you about all the things that are going through my mind today; what’s going on in the world today. Things like the war in the Middle East or the number of children in this country living in poverty — kids that will think they were naughty because there are no presents under the tree Christmas morning. I don’t want you to worry about my grade 12 University Level students who can’t write two paragraphs in seventy minutes because they sold their souls to Google in elementary school and ceded their brains to ChatGPT last year. I don’t want to remind you of how Canada was on fire for most of the summer. Or how few people voted in the last election; or about the growing number of homeless people in our community; or the four international students living in the basement of the house across the street from us (I bet they’re missing their family and friends; they look like they need winter coats). The holidays only exacerbate these problems, Ruby. So, I’m not being silly. Silly is the last thing the world needs Or, maybe not.

I know what I sound like. But Christmas is more than a single day— it’s an entire season. And in that season, we spend more, consume more, pollute more. In the act of giving, we are also taking. It’s gotten so out of control that Santa has had to hire a fleet of white vans and an entire squadron of elves to help meet demand. They wear safety vests instead of pointy hats and leave gifts at the front door instead of under the tree. If they don’t get to us from the inside, they can get to us from the outside. And where I think we need to be is somewhere in the middle — between the outside and the inside; between giving gifts and giving presence. To not lose sight of where we’re at and where we all need to be; to give within our means, and to give gifts that mean.  

I’m just trying to make sense of it all. And I’m not sure that after 854 words, I’m any closer to figuring it out. In the end, this column, this space, these words, and thoughts are my little gifts to you. You may not have asked for them, but I’m giving them to you. Enjoy the holidays.

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