The Flaw of the Magi

I was in that realm between sleep and wakefulness where we flit from image to image, watching, then experiencing as each image grows in dimension and transforms into whatever we imagine. I saw the Christmas Tree festooned with lights and ornaments, one of which was a silver fork with a ribbon tied around it. Then the three year-old boy, experiencing the first Christmas that he vaguely understood, face full of excitement at the gaily wrapped package, but unsure of just what to do with it.

The scene switched to my son’s house where he and his girlfriend of 6 years had arranged a table of nearly 50 presents, bought with time and money they could ill afford, for the friends and family they were to see this Christmas; parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, nephews, and cousins. It was cold in their house in the hopes of saving a few dollars on the heating bill. I shivered, briefly, at the memory.

Then Suddenly, a call as if from another realm…


A woman’s voice startled me out of my reverie. She was leaning close, a pretty face framed by straight, short blond hair, her eyes staring directly into mine. She was holding what looked like a foil-wrapped condom in her hand. Instinctively, I glanced at her breasts, something glinted — looked like wings. As my vision cleared I could read the words “Southwest” as she repeated,

“Would you like some penis, Sir?”

and held out the salted, honey-roasted, snacks.

“Pretzels, please,” I murmured, because peanuts get caught in my teeth.

Brought home from my son’s Christmas, the bag between my feet was filled with interesting baubles that had been appreciated, but not needed; a few new puzzles, some books, a bag of highly quality trail mix containing, ironically, peanuts. I was relieved that, this year, I had not been burdened with a borrowed suitcase full of stuff they could not afford and I would never use.

The tradition, at Christmas, of buying people things they don’t want badly enough to buy for themselves seems dangerously wasteful. Buying them things they need but cannot afford is wonderful, except that part of tradition is supposed to include an element of surprise; meaning that they are likely to get the sweater they need, but in the wrong color to go with their coat. Gift certificates are even more puzzling as if to say “Here’s $50, but you can only spend it at the necktie store.”


“Christmas Spirit” lives, indeed, and the happy moments of family and feelings of abundance and surprise are filled with love, gratitude, and joy.  There is great goodness here, but little purity. The “Gift of the Magi” is sweet, but how do we learn that the sweetness can be had while keeping the hair and the watch.

The three year-old boy opened his present and was ecstatic when he saw the coloring book and crayons. His eyes opened wide with excitement as he found a magical picture and began to open the crayons.

“No Dear. That’s for later. Now you’ve got other presents to open.” He looked up in disappointment, shock, and surprise as his mom gently took the crayons from his hands and pointed to a pile of boxes and ribbons that was almost as big as the boy. A few moments later, the coloring book lay forgotten under a loose pile of torn wrappings.

Welcome to Christmas, son.

He’ll be told stories of Santa Claus (a testament to the fact that children believe whatever we tell them, be it fat men and chimneys, wings and a harp, or 72 virgins) then the myth will be busted in what seems like a rite of passage as he learns that even his mother lied to him.

In January, after our New Year’s revelry (are we celebrating the end of the Christmas Season?), we are exhausted from the insane flurry of Christmas shopping and, mostly likely, heavy from the burden of our newly-found credit card debt.

How to we change Christmas back to the joyful celebration of family, friends, peace, and abundance?