Rupert Cox: A time for giving
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Don’t underestimate the impact of buying and presenting gifts to others, says our columnist
The wonder of Christmas through an infant’s eyes - what a wonderful distant memory for most of us.
However, I have the opportunity to experience such joy once more as we are being joined this Christmas by my entire family, including the delightful Cece (two and three quarters) and her baby sister, Betsy, who will be three days short of her first birthday on the ‘big day’. I am so looking forward to seeing the awe and wonder in the eyes of these little girls and, while I suspect that the wrapping paper will be far more interesting to Betsy than the present within, this will be the first year that Cece will comprehend the meaning of Christmas.
But what is the meaning of Christmas? According to the contemporary bible of knowledge, Wikipedia: “Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world...” I am particularly interested in the word ‘cultural’ as in our multicultural, multi-faith and no-belief society, it is too easy to miss out on what our underlying culture is all about. I would suggest that whichever cultural or belief background you are from, we naturally adhere to the culture of care and understanding and find it abhorrent when others behave to the contrary.
Whilst we can discuss, and in some cases argue, the validity of the Christian faith, billions of people from differing faiths around the globe use the Christmas period to foster closer bonds with their families and close friends. We over-indulge on edible treats as if they will not be in existence on 1 January; we eat a bumper roast meal as if it were our ‘last supper’ and then consume copious amounts of alcohol for no other reason than we can – but we are doing all of this together.
We then exchange gifts to show our love and affection for each other. I know it’s hard to buy for old geezers like me, but that’s not the point. The point is that while the purchase is being made, we are thinking of the person who will receive it; when we wrap it, we think of them; and when we watch them open it, we are thinking of them – waiting for the reaction with trepidation. The value of giving cannot be underestimated.
This brings us back to the two little tots who will be creating havoc in my house for the few festive days of Christmas before returning home to the delights of Croydon. I suspect that Cece will give us numerous renditions of Away in a Manger (which will be a welcome yuletide relief from Old MacDonald, Ba Ba Black Sheep and The Wheels on the Bus) and stamp her feet in frustration on the few occasions when things don’t go all her own way; but for me, the moment of magic will be when she opens her gift from me – please don’t tell her, but it is a farmyard colouring set.
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Most of us are so lucky in that we will share the festive time with those closest to us, but spare a thought for those who have no-one. No-one to share a meal; no-one to share The Sound of Music on TV, and vitally, no-one with whom to share gifts.
Rupert Cox is the CEO of the Royal Bath and West Society. For more from Rupert, follow him on Twitter! @rupert_rbw