On gifts and giving with grace and style

Dec. 15, 2012 @ 02:36 PM

 I’m facinated with the idea of Santa Claus. What led our American culture to make him the center piece of December events.          

It supposedly derived  “The Night Before Christmas” poem. Clement Clark Moore wrote this  on Christmas Eve, 1822. It was meant for his children. His vision is certainly responsible for our concept of a red dressed Santa with sleigh and reindeer.

In England during this same Victorian period Prince Albert had married Queen Victoria. He brought German customs with him. Tree trimming, gift exchanging, caroling. Christmas popularity exploded.

Mid 19th century American Christmas celebrating and gift giving got more commercial. Macy’s had caught on.  Their 1880‘s  holiday window displays and imported European dolls were the big features. 

Santa Claus and gift giving became a permanent Christmas fixtures.

My grandchildren in Brussels, Belgium also celebrate St. Nicholas day. This takes place in their French school. 

European St. Nicholas visits in early December. At first he scared my grandson Patterson. Now that Patterson has been in a French school for over four years he’s gotten use to the imposing figure.

I’m afraid to ask four-year-old Elizabeth’s opinion of St. Nicholas. I have a feeling if he gives out candy, he’s okay with her.

Unlike their European cousins, the grandchildren in America just celebrate Santa Claus.

This gift giving holiday began as a religious event for the Christian faith. The wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus born in a manger. Gift giving for baby Jesus’ birth set as December 25th is traditional.

Historically, gift giving around the December and January winter months has pagan beginnings. All these gift giving ideas and religious beliefs have mixed together and produced the current customs.

Good manners when receiving gifts are hard lessons for children to learn. They need to say thank you for all gifts. Be grateful. Treat each one as special.

 Slow down when opening them. Don’t just rip into a pile and throw the contents aside to open more. Savior the moment.

Add you were so nice to take the time to get this gift for me. Give a hug of thanks.

This goes for adults too. Act charmed with the gifts you receive.

Award winning author and columnist Dear Sugar aka Cheryl Strayed gives a melancholy story about Christmas gifts and thanking. She sets the scene with a mother’s excitement over finding the perfect coat for her daughter.

Sugar admonishes the daughter,“Don’t hold it up and say its longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy. And possibly too warm”.

She further instructs to appreciate the mother who gave you the coat she had “saved for months to buy”.

The story tells the daughter that when her mother is gone the daughter will regret the small things she didn’t say when her mother was alive.

Dear Sugar gives the perfect advice, “Say thank you”.


• Monroe resident Jeanne Howell teaches etiquette to business and private groups. She can be reached at jeannehowell20@gmail.com. and 704-221-1905.