I saw this trend developing when I was about 14 years old, yet said nothing.
Back then Christmas was easier. You sat back while mom and dad did all of the planning, helped decorate the house, gathered supplies at the market together for the annual party, etc. Then school was out and things really kicked off.
Mixed in all of this were subtle ways of finding out what you wanted for Christmas. Most of the time, parents knew what the kids wanted. Then I saw this new fad: Christmas lists e-mailed to mom and dad.
My cousins did it, my sister did it, but I never did. It just always seemed a bit wrong.
They would go to websites of their favorite retail stores, check off all these items they'd like under the tree come the morning of Dec. 25, then off it went to mom and dad or Santa.
Now I have never been fashion savvy, but this is not why I never took part in such a tradition.
Yet even now, years later, I still get the same questions from my own family. "What do you want for Christmas?" And I always have the same answer: I have no idea, and shouldn't you know? (that last bit is never said aloud)
I always thought gift giving was more about the thought than anything. No, I don't necessarily mean that terrible cliche. What I mean is gift giving used to take some calculating.
Sure, people had lists, but they created them. It wasn't hand delivered to them saying "Here is what I want…." People would take time to think about who they were purchasing the gift for, and that inevitably made it more meaningful.
Sometimes it's obvious. If you have a friend who has maybe fallen on hard times and goes on about how their couch is on its last leg or how the washer overflows frequently, then it's clear that person is in need. You help them because that's what friends and family do.
But at other times, it's not so straight forward. Using myself as an example, I currently am not in a great need of anything. So what I'd really like for Christmas is something that comes from the heart.
See a painting or mantel piece that reminds you of a friend or family member? There's a gift. Maybe you find a new gadget or something that they might enjoy having while doing something they love.
That's what gift giving is all about, after all. If you practice the traditional Christmas, gift giving is a symbol of the ultimate gift given to mankind. It was something we needed, yet no one took a list to God and said "Yeah, if you could just send your only son down here to die for us, that'd be nice." It was given out of grace, not out of request.
And even if you celebrate Christmas for a different reason, that's still the spirit of the holiday. So no more lists, no more requests. If someone asks you what you want, just say "Surprise me!"
At the end of the day, you'll find out who really knows you and, possibly, who you should spend more time with in the new year.