Christmas is perhaps the most selfish of all holidays and in that selfishness it is perhaps the most unique. With exception to Easter it is the only planet wide celebration with only a few countries abstaining officially. China, (excepting Hong Kong and Macao), Japan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Thailand, Iran, Turkey and North Korea do not celebrate as a mandated holiday but thousands upon thousands within each country do turn their hearts and minds to the holiday. In Japan the holiday is very popular with perhaps millions engaged in the buying fever that is Christmas.
Christmas has morphed over the years from a very simple Christian holiday to a Marketing feeding frenzy of buying and giving, transforming the minds of billions each year to the prospects of anticipation behind a brightly colored package wrapped with ribbons and bows to hide the contents within. The uniqueness of this holiday is in this very aspect of expectation. The fundamental purpose may seem selfish on its face but in every gift expected one must be given.
As a selfish holiday there is none better. Sitting with friends and family the overwhelming experience is in what one gets as opposed to what one gives away. The abject sorrow over an unwanted toy or an ugly tie can be devastating to the recipient while those who gave that horrid gift will undoubtedly experience the pain of a failed attempt to please for months if not years, depending on the severity of the blunder; selfishness all around unless the strict balance of gift giving and receiving can be attained and maintained for all parties involved. The stress related to finding that balance is in part due to the promotional mechanistic machinery that we call advertising that propels us beyond the simple message of a long ago born infant helping frantic shoppers to forget the reason for the season.
It is this specific process that the true nature of this holiday is realized. Even though the expectation may be to receive it is virtually impossible to maintain a receiving scenario without a consistent and meaningful process of giving. You must give to receive, a universal truth perhaps but a realistic process that must be followed in order for the receiving cycle to continue.
The child learns that in order to get a better toy he needs to be a good giver. A giver of deeds or of presents the results change the heart of the giver, enforcing the idea that a better gift is deserved. For the giver the often obvious attempts toward ingratiation cannot be ignored resulting in a higher degree of gift giving as a motivational reward for past deeds.
What makes this holiday unique is not entirely in the selfish requests and overt attempts toward kindness but in the psychologically advanced scenario of forcing everyone to think beyond themselves. Regardless of the selfishness of desire of the expected receiver the entire world is forced to focus their attentions on what to give, maximizing their chances of receiving a gift of equal or greater value. Each gift given sets up the receiver with an obligation to give, turning the entire selfish attitude of Christmas into a selfless fun zone of smiles and gleeful claps of joy as gifts are unwrapped. Unlike the birthday where the recipient expects gifts just by virtue of being born on a specific day Christmas transcends the singular events of birthdays and get well gifts by forcing each recipient to also be a giver.
There may never be a perfect balance of gift and receipt, but in every attempt to give and every gift received that balance is recorded, tallied on that cosmic spread sheet in the sky, keeping score of the inner most feelings of those on both sides of this gift exchange. The beauty of this holiday is unique in that the balance is always positive, always in the black, as those who receive must spend more time preparing, thinking and contemplating about what gift to give than they do about what will be opened.
Marketing may try to sway the selfless minds away from giving, promoting the ideas of giving more, paying more, equating good gifts with high prices, but the process will forever be one slated toward the giver. It is the Giver of all things that espoused the process and adopted the spirit that dwells in all of us, helping all of us to focus, if only for a few short weeks, our thoughts to the well-being of others over ourselves.