Christmas is not just about presents under the Christmas tree

Another Christmas is around the corner and with it comes another cycle of frenzied shopping as parents head for stores or online to buy that hot new toy that secures them the position of the coolest parent in their child’s eyes. When once a book or a new dress was considered a Christmas treat, nowadays very few children settle for one or such ‘trivial’ gifts.

“What was popular when I was a child is completely different to the high tech gifts of today. I feel people gift more electronic and technologically-driven gifts these days. For instance, I received a Kindle from my husband last year for Christmas, not that I am complaining; it is one of my prized possessions,” says Anne Kristenne Moreira (a.k.a. Tina).

A former head of the Department of English at Mar Ivanios College, Tina recalls writing letters to Santa asking for stuffed toys, books and clothes when she was a child, and was happy with what she got. “Children, especially teenagers now however, insist on the latest electronic gadgets, be it a cell phone or an ipad. They want to keep up with the Joneses and most parents oblige.”

Priya Thomas, operations manager, Learnware Solutions, too feels that parents are indulgent of their children. “These days, no gift is good enough for most kids unless it has a mind of its own and can connect to the Internet. Children, now, are seldom taught the value of money as parents gladly buy whatever their child demands,” she says. While her nine-year-old son Shaun is clued on the latest toys and gadgets in the market courtesy television advertisements and friends, she and her husband try to ensure the toy or gadget they buy for him are age appropriate and will not “take his mind off his studies. Beyblades, Hot Wheels and PSP games are what he wants; we might get him one of those for Christmas.”

Keeping a ‘gifting tradition’ alive is what Gene Chelapadan and Savita George hope to do. Says Gene Chelapadan, legal adviser at Technopark: “My father would gift me a toy Santa Claus when I was young every year without fail. I am trying to keep the tradition alive with my daughter, Anna. It will be something she will cherish each time Christmas comes around.”

Savita on the other hand is keen on keeping a tradition she started alive. “My mother-in-law gifted my daughter, Sneha an advent calendar when she was two. The calendar had gifts for each day of the month of December. As the days grew closer to Christmas, the gifts grew bigger. While I did try to do that each year, I had to put a pause when my son, Aman came along. I will resume it though,” says Savita, creative consultant at 316 Creations.

While presents do play an important role for Christmas, 80-year-old Beatrice D’Silva remembers a time when Christmas was less of gifts, and more of spending time with family. “It was about attending Midnight mass on Christmas eve, singing carols… but most of all catching up with relatives and celebrating the birth of Christ. In those days, more often than not, one simple gift was what most children received, rather than the current mass of extravagant gifts often given out these days,” says Beatrice.

A simple Christmas with family is how Lathika Yovel, former additional secretary at the Kerala Legislative Assembly, recalls Christmas past too. “I grew up in Parumala, Thiruvalla. Christmas, when I was growing up, was about family coming together. We would attend church and come home to a modest feast. Relatives would come bearing home-made traditional eats as gifts. I got my first taste of Christmas gifting when I joined my job in the city and my colleagues gave me presents. Christmas for me is not about presents under the tree but about spending time with friends and family,” says Lathika.

So, what is on your Christmas list?

On the shelves

The hot toy of the season changes every year. While last year, the ‘in’ toys were Barbie and Hot Wheels, this year, figurines of characters of the popular children’s cartoon Chota Bheem are selling like hot cakes. A range of mini-exercise machines for children are also making waves as are Angry Bird action game toys.