Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
I grew up in what was essentially a secular home, and Christmas was a present-oriented holiday. We didn’t own many books but spent a lot of time at the library. I never met a Christmas novella until recently.
But like the rest of you, I did read O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi in school. I loved the story because of what to my teenage heart seemed a tremendously ironic tragedy. You know what happens: A poor devoted couple sells their most precious possessions–Jim sells his watch, Della sells her beautiful long hair–to provide gifts for each other at Christmas. When they open their gifts, Jim receives a watch fob (chain) and Della combs for her hair.
Now that I’m older and have a few more Christmases behind me, I’ve met a contrasting irony in my own life. Two years ago I gave my husband a GPS for Christmas. He gave me a Kindle. The GPS spends a lot of time in my car–the Kindle is seldom out of his hands.
It’s led me to wonder how best to analyze what a loved one really wants for a Christmas gift. Just because something is a sacrifice to me doesn’t mean the recipient will appreciate the enormity of what I paid for the present. How then to decide?
I think about what I know about my loved ones–what they’re interested in, what their personal needs are. I look at my budget and try to figure out something that will make them laugh or recognize I know what’s important to them. For a niece, I sent a book about marine life since she wants to be a marine biologist. For a star-gazing son in graduate school, I wrapped up a t-shirt emblazoned with “When I was your age, Pluto was a planet,” to give him an amusing way to interact with his students.
Sometimes, though, our interests aren’t necessarily what we want. Our family has been watching past episodes of Monk on TV of late and laughing a great deal. It occurred to me that, while I enjoy the show, I don’t want to own the complete collection. I told my husband such was the case so he could discourage any notions he might hear from the kids.
Jesus, of course, gave us what we needed the most–himself–and few realized at first the enormous personal sacrifice God made to give the gift many didn’t recognize they needed most.
How have the Christmas stories you’ve read affected the way you think about or purchase gifts? And what do you think are the important elements in a Christmas story?