Am I the only one who has noticed this trend? If you're in that unmarried 18-24 range where you're still largely dependent on your family (or, if you're independent, at least closely tied) and probably still a student, doesn't it seem like every year Christmas is less about spirit and surprise and more of a business negotiation?
I remember being 8 years old and going sequentially through the Sunday paper advertisements for WEEKS on end 2-3 months before Christmas, carefully calculating and recalculating the dollar values of my Christmas list, trying to balance the risk-reward equation so as to ensure my list didn't appear too greedy (a sure fire way to get punished by Santa Dad), but categorize the gifts in such a way as to maximize the odds of getting the biggest gifts with the odds of getting the gifts I really wanted that I thought I had a chance at.
I remember being so surprised by my new bike that I told my parents that there must have been a mistake and the bike was really meant for Dad because it was way too big for me.
I remember getting the Ricochet RC car that had been advertised so awesomely on TV as this fast, agile, unstoppable machine only to find out it was gigantic monstrosity, difficult to control, and easy to derail.
I remember spending days on end in my room listening to all my new CDs backwards and forwards until I had memorized all the lyrics, identified which songs were best, sung them all a thousand times, and put them on repeat until my parents couldn't stand them any longer.
What happened to all the excitement and Christmas magic? I got so much more enjoyment out of $10 toys than I do out of multi-thousand dollar "entertainment systems." I get single items that cost more than my entire Christmas from when I was 8, but I don't enjoy the holiday nearly as much. Maybe its because I haven't received a "toy" in like 5 years (not playing video games will do that to you), but while I want and/or need all of the possessions I gain through Christmas, none of them bring me any of the Christmas magic, the pure unadultered enjoyment of my youth.
Christmas has become a business transaction. It starts with some negotiation on the total value of Christmas this year, usually adjusted for the perceived "necessity" of the gifts I want this year, and largely influenced by the gifts I was promised the year before that I never got around to picking up from the store. After some careful analysis, comparison, and evaluation, we arrive at some mutual limit which establishes the theoretical boundary of gifts this year.
Then comes the negotiation regarding the timing of purchases and their uses. Why should I wait till Christmas to use _____ when I could obviously use it next weekend on this trip? Let me order this one, okay, so it doesn't get screwed up? Should I ship this to your house so you can wrap it or my house so I can use it?
By Christmas morning, I've run more cost-benefit analyses and 95% of my gifts are carefully and meticulously selected, ordered, and designed items in order to maximize my take from this year's holiday season. Over the course of the next couple months, the remaining items on my list (the ones designated as "well we promise to get you ____, but it isn't available until February" or "we'll buy that when it's in-season" or "we'll wait a couple months till the credit cards even out") are further evaluated, negotiated, and reassigned. I thought I wanted X, but now I would rather have Y. I'll give up Z and X and get Y instead, okay?
By the end of January, I have more loot than ever before, with nearly 100% of my list fulfilled or contracted for fulfillment, and yet I haven't enjoyed the gift-giving season at all. It's been an stressful exercise and none of the loot seems to ease the stress. What the hell has this holiday become?
This year I'm gonna buck the trend. Buy me some rollerblades.