The Gift That Keeps on Giving
It seems the holiday buying season starts earlier and earlier. It used to be that “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving, had been the unofficial start of the gift buying season; when price-minded shoppers mob department stores in search of sales and mark-downs. Today - - the first week in October - - stores have begun Christmas sales. If Wal-Mart® has moved its holiday sales season start can other stores be far behind? New Hampshire, long the holder of the earliest presidential primary election, is now joined and even superseded by other states seeking the cachet of holding the ‘first’ primary. Followed logically, if not absurdly, this trend will lead us full circle to Black Friday. Let’s save ourselves the cultural angst of trying to do more, sooner and before the ‘next guy’ and keep the winter holiday season where it is.
I would argue that, regardless of ones beliefs, the end of the yearly cycle has always been a time for celebration. The harvest is in, stores laid by and the fields plowed under for a winters sleep. Well, maybe I’m a few thousand years out of date for most people, but the changing seasons do bring physical and emotional responses in people; at least those of us that live in temperate climes. Even today’s urban dwellers seem to find a satisfaction in the year’s completion and anticipation for the new year to come. In many cultures this is expressed in a desire to share ones bounty with family and friends and the giving of gifts.
I will not dwell on the commercialization of the holiday season that seems to increasingly overwhelm our lives or whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or just ‘is.’ I would like us to think about the old maxim that, “it is better to give than to receive.” Often uttered by parents in an effort to appease disgruntled children, it has been rendered ineffective, like some antibiotics, by unthinking overuse. Children, selfish beasties that they are, don’t believe it for a minute and in the face of this reaction, most parents probably find it difficult to believe themselves. Toys, books, clothes, computers, games, apps, things, things, things are what we crave and when we finally open the box to see our heart’s desire we are happy for a while - - and then we start to want something else and all previous gifts and desires fade in comparison.
Lest I come across as too much of a Scrooge, let me state for the record that I enjoy the holiday season and am happy to receive a gift - - any kind of gift! I would still, however bemoan the focus on only giving “things”. As those of us in the performing arts profession know, attending a performance not only provides the attributes of a ‘gift,’ anticipation and elation, but also an experience that can last for many years. For myself and probably many of you, attendance at the Nutcracker, the Messiah or some other traditional holiday performance was a transforming experience that continues to resonate. It is an essential part of who we are and how we view the world no matter what aspect of the business we find ourselves in or even if we were to change careers.
Those of you who have worked with me or have been reading my posts have, no doubt, noticed my constant focus that the performing arts, and indeed all the arts, should be an important and integral part of everyone’s life. Other of life’s ‘things’ bring a constant pressure against this, but it is a way we can truly change the world. This is the gift I would like to give to my children, family, friends and colleagues; one where, I believe, it can truly be better to give than to receive.