Children’s Christmas Party Gimmes

by admin on December 17, 2012

My parents belong to an organization that throws a Children’s Christmas Party for the children and grandchildren of members every year. My parents took me every year until I was 11 or 12 (I am in my 20’s now), and it was always one of my favourite events of the year. Every year, there is food, games, magicians, puppet shows, and Santa Claus, who arrives with bins and bins full of brand new toys for each child to unwrap and take home. The same woman has been in charge of purchasing toys for the children for longer than I have been alive, and she does a fantastic job. When invitees RSVP to the party, they register the attending children’s genders and ages, and each year and gender gets a specific toy. For example, on one of my favourite years, I (as a 5-year-old girl) received a purple Crayola art easel with a pack of crayons, and my brother (as a 3-year-old boy) got 12 jars of Play-Doh. The point I am trying to make, is that the woman in charge of the presents (we’ll call her “M”) doesn’t cheap out. The toys are always high-quality and age appropriate, and she puts a lot of thought into each age and gender.

Of course, some people always find a reason to complain. This year’s Children’s Christmas Party has come and gone. I have not attended for some time, but my parents remain close to M, who continues buying toys for the kids every year. Apparently this year, a woman approached M at the party, and informed her that her daughter’s toy was inappropriate, as “We are Christians, and we don’t believe in this type of toy.” The woman went on to say that she would much rather swap her 9-year-old daughter’s toy for one of the small CD players that the 12-year-old girls were receiving this year. The offensive toy in question (that all the other 9-year-old girls received as well) was a kit for the girl to make hair decorations out of plastic beads. It has been some time since my last religion class, so I must have been sick the day they taught that it was against the Bible to put beads in your hair.

M explained to the woman that the gift could not be swapped. Enough gifts are purchased for the children who are registered. No more, and no less. There simply weren’t any CD players left to give to the 9-year-old, and even if there were, a swap would still not be possible because as soon as one child got to switch their gifts, more children would want to pick and choose their presents. This woman, however, would not let up. After a fair bit of badgering, it seemed even her daughter was getting upset. Finally, exasperated, M reiterated that there was nothing she could do to switch the toy for something else. She suggested that the Christian thing to do would be to donate the unwanted toy to a charity that collected for less fortunate children for Christmas. In fact, M went on to explain, there was a collection being taken up at that very party, and the donated toys would be driven to the charity that evening. At this, M ended the conversation and busied herself with other tasks.

A few hours later, as the party was winding down, the same woman approached M. “Just wanted to let you know that we have another daughter we forgot to register. She’s 12.” Again, M apologized, and reminded the woman that it had been printed in bold type on the invitations that children who weren’t registered would not receive a gift. The woman left in a huff without her coveted CD player.

When the party ended, everything was cleaned up, and all that was left to do was deliver the donated toys to the above-mentioned charity, M made a point to check for a hair-decorating kit among the donations. There was none there. Apparently, the so-called “religiously offensive” toy was better than no toy at all.   1205-12

{ 101 comments… read them below or add one }

manybellsdown December 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm

@ Mrs. Lovett – Right? The only time I *ever* win a raffle or a door prize, it is, without fail, something I already own or cannot possibly use. Once I won a raffle and the prize was something I’d literally just purchased the day before. So I just give it away. No big deal.

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Katana December 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Some people just want to be offended, and they’re always looking for a reason.

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Kendra December 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm

I’m going with most of the PP’s, especially Another Laura, and say that the religion thing was a ploy to try to get the “better” gift. In my experience, if the religion is conservative enough to frown on hair beads, they are very likely to frown on cd players.

As far as how M handled the situation, I am very impressed. She handled the gimme mom with grace and style. Brava M! I’m betting, though, that this party was not M’s first time at the rodeo. I think it is likely that she has had years to perfect how to handle the special snowflakes. OP states that M has “been in charge of purchasing toys for the children for longer than I have been alive”. As we all know, practice makes perfect. I think M gets practice every year because every year there will always be that one parent.

So, Brava M for a beautifully handled situation and for continuing to take on this task every year.

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Cat Whisperer December 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Years and years and years ago, I was responsible for organizing the “morale” functions for the department I worked in. This meant choosing the restaurant or venue where the restaurant was held, working with the restaurant management to come up with menu choices, buying any gifts or door prizes that were to be given as part of the function, all within the constraints of whatever budget was available for the function.

It was hard work. It was also a learning experience. And one of the things I learned: in any group, there are going to be some people who are simply not going to be happy with the choices the organizer has made. They will gripe about the menu. They will complain about the location. They will find fault with the gifts. They will kvetch about the party to anyone who will listen. Some of them will do their complaining behind your back, and some of them will confront you with their complaints.

And here’s what you do about these complainers:

NOTHING.

As long as the vast majority of people who attend the function are happy, you have to learn to shrug off the whiners. Especially if what they’re complaining about is self-serving, as was the case with the woman the OP wrote about.

The party organizer, “M”, did exactly the right thing. She allowed the woman to make her complaint, concluded that the complaint was not valid and was self-serving, and simply iterated and re-iterated that there was nothing that could be done about it, so sorry. Repeat as necessary: I hear you, I’m sorry you feel that way, there is nothing that can done about it.

FWIW, it’s my experience that the most self-serving complainers always try to cloak their self-centric complaint in a broader disguise: e.g., the woman in today’s story citing Christianity as a reason for objecting to the gift her daughter got. That’s how these people work: they recognize that if they came out and said “My daughter would really rather have the CD player than the hair ornament stuff,” their complaint will be summarily dismissed as having no merit, so they dress it up with an issue that they think will bully/scare the person they’re complaining to into giving them what they want. “It offends my religious beliefs,” puts the person they’re complaining to in the spot of looking insensitive, or even worse, religiously bigoted.

All you can do when dealing with these people is be firm but polite, stand your ground, and recognize that they aren’t going to be happy. “M” did the right thing; but I’ll bet this isn’t the first time she’s encountered this or similar complaints, and I’ll bet one of the things she’ll be thankful for when someone else eventually takes up her task is that she doesn’t have to deal with these kinds of complaints any more.

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Miss Raven December 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm

This may seem silly, but. This is a Christmas party. Not a holiday party. Not a birthday party. Not a Hanukkah party.

Can’t it be reasonably assumed that most, if not all, of the families in attendance are Christian?

To me, this makes the gift-grab and obvious excuses even worse. This woman was not only trying to weasel a “better” toy for her daughter, but her objection on religious grounds in effect insulted the Christianity of every other family in attendance, as well as M.

If most to all of the other families at the CHRISTMAS party were also CHRISTIAN and no one else objected to the toy (and M chose and purchased the toy), what this woman was saying wasn’t only, “We are Christian and therefore find this objectionable.” She was also saying (or at least implying), “We are more Christian than you and therefore find this objectionable.” And considering no one else objected, she would have to have been implying that she was more Christian than ALL of them. After all, if they were GOOD Christians, they should also have been objecting, and M should have picked a more suitably “Christian” toy.

As a full-blooded, born-and-raised reform Jew who has never been considered Jewish by my Orthodox side of the family (although some of them even witnessed my Bat Mizvah), I find this perhaps the most abhorrent thing in the long list of abhorrent things in this story. What a Grinch.

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Barbarian December 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm

M sounds like a wonderfully gracious lady. Our church has an Angel Tree for the needy each year. Selected local charities submit wish lists for individual clients printed on a paper tree ornament. The parishioners then take an ornament, buy the gifts requested for the recipient, and return them to the church. One featured charity was a home for troubled teens. The charity had the wisdom to request exactly the same gift for each teen resident: 1. $25 gift card to local movie theater 2. hoodie 3. candy bag.
Since all the teens live under one roof, it would have been a bad thing if 1 resident were to receive a fancy game system while another got only a modest sweater. Kudos to the youth home who knows how to respect its donors’ budgets in these difficult times!

Maybe it’s time for M to give each child at the party a candy bag with an age appropriate religious book for that church and announce that the money that would have been used for gifts is instead going to be used to provide toys for needy kids. The young party guests would learn the grace of giving early.

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Elspeth December 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I agree that the lady sounds like an entitled SS and I’m glad M stood her ground. I hope that it doesn’t colour her opinion of the festival next year (which sounds awesome!).

I am no longer surprised at what people will pull to get something ‘free’ or if they feel entitled to it. I used to work in a large department store’s toy department. When we had a ‘spend $50 or more and get a free toy’ (a toy of dubious quality that was merely there to suck people in), I had many parents argue that they should be able to break up their$600 shopping spree into exactly $50 lots and complain bitterly when I pointed out that Management had put a stop to this (after previous experience) and that it wasn’t fair for the 8 people standing behind them if I took 15 minutes to process and bag their order.

However, the icing on the cake came one year when I did the annual shopping spree for a Large Corporation (LC) that worked near by. Every year the LC would hold a massive Christmas party for their employees, complete with carnival rides, live entertainment, free food, free drinks and free presents for kids under 12 . I would spend two days with the co-ordinator from LC, selecting, buying and wrapping about 120 gifts. The gifts had to be about $50 each which was, to my mind, fairly generous from an already generous company. One year as I was pulling suggestions off the shelves the co-ordinator explained that due to last year’s complaints we had to abide by a new set of rules which included:

1. No barbies or other little girls dolls (they were sexist)
2. No karaoke or singing presents (a lady had complained that it put undue pressure on her daughter to perform)
3. No board games (a parent had complained that it wasn’t fair on their only-child as they would have no-one to play with)
4. No action figures

I must of stood there too long with my mouth open as she listed the complaints as eventually she looked at me and smiled and said “I know, but it’s better than hearing people whinge. Although if this keeps up we won’t be giving the kids gifts next year.”

We didn’t see her the next year, but I did get a nice note thanking me for all the extra work.

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Jay December 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm

@o_gal: “There are denominations of Christianity that do not believe in wearing jewelry, and I can easily see that hair beading would fall under that same restriction”

Wonder how lying falls into that denomination’s belief..

Also, according to the story, they said “we are Christians” (not a particular denomination), and that they “don’t believe in that sort of toy” (not “wearing jewelry is against our faith”)

But even if they were in that denomination, they should’ve donated the gift, not demanded a replacement.

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Stephanie December 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm

This brings back memories for me- For quite a few years when I was small and still close to my dad’s family my Norwegian grandmother would bring my brothers and me to the Children’s Christmas party of the Norwegian organization that she belonged to. There were traditional treats and goodies, songs and dances, and a visit from Santa with a gift for each child. I remember always being quite pleased with my gift from this party, although I can’t remember any specifics from so long ago.
In the case of this kind of gift exchange, I know that it can sometimes be difficult for children to receive something that they aren’t very interested in and watch other children get something that they really really want. Even though children should be taught early on that you can’t always get everything and you have to be gracious about what you are given, I can’t see that asking the organizer, once, nicely, if they permitted switching because your child would really appreciate something else a lot more, would be very inappropriate. It’s when you start making up reasons and expecting special treatment that it gets to be rude, like in this story.
I remember vividly as a kid my activity group had a very large holiday party with the kind of gift exchange where everyone brought a wrapped gift and then got to choose another… And the gift I chose and opened was pepperoni pizza scented gack (like silly putty, but a bit slimier and jigglier) which was absolutely DISGUSTING. I’m pretty sure switching was allowed but since my gift was so gross no other kid wanted anything to do with it. I’m afraid to say but I did get a fair bit upset about the gift exchange, seeing all the other kids opening up cool things, while i was stuck with slime that smelled pretty much like vomit. Ah, well, live and learn.

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Kristin December 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Oh, how I wish M had bent down to the little girl and said, “And what is your sister’s name?”

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Wayne December 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm

@Miss raven “This may seem silly, but. This is a Christmas party. Not a holiday party. Not a birthday party. Not a Hanukkah party.

Can’t it be reasonably assumed that most, if not all, of the families in attendance are Christian”

Ummm NO. I celebrate Christmas and go to Christmas parties and give Christmas presents and in fact am going to one tomorrow where the vast majority of attendees are not Christians. Christmas is not just for Christians you know.

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FerrisW December 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm

If it wouldn’t be unfair to let her daughter receive a different gift than other children of her age-group, I’d suggest that if this woman attends next year, that M wrap up a nice bible for her and give that as a gift, since it’s the only thing I could think of as a totally okay and unobjectionable Christian gift.

Also, to Miss Raven- I am an atheist who goes to Christmas parties. In my part of the world Christmas is a cultural holiday rather than a solely religious one, so I don’t think we can assume that all of the attendees to this part are Christian.

Interestingly, a friend related to me a story about her niece, who received a similar hair-adornment gift at a party one year. She and her mother thanked the giver profusely, although she had no use at that time for the gift- because the child was at that time undergoing chemotherapy and wore a bandana rather than a wig for comfort. I don’t know whether they kept the gift or gave it to someone else, but at no time did the giver know that the present was not ideal in that situation. Whenever I hear stories like the OPs, it makes me happy to know that these do not represent the majority of people, and that most people are polite and grateful.

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Kim December 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

My father-in-law’s building has a Christmas party for all the kids (usually grandkids) belonging to people who live there. My kids went last year, ages 8 (boy), 6 (girl) and 4 (boy). The organizers are given the age and gender of children registered to attend.

For the 8 and 6 year olds the choices were spot on. But my 4 yr old boy got a Nutcracker book. He cried. It was a bit “girly” for a very boyish boy like him, and my husband and I exchanged puzzled glances. It was a bit of an odd choice for a 4 yr old boy and nowhere near what my son would have chosen if he had an opportunity. What did we say to the organizers? Absolutely nothing.

My husband and I were trying to figure out the best way to handle this – it wasn’t the 4 yr old’s fault, but we also don’t want to swoop in a fix “problems” like this for him. He needs to learn that life is sometimes disappointing. But we didn’t have a chance to decide what to do. We played up what a great book this was and he decided on his own that he liked the book and took ownership of it. The “problem” fixed itself.

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Kim December 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm

In my last post, forgot to mention that we NEVER would have approached the organizers to complain. This is a perk, an extra nice thing for the building to provide.

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waitress wonderwoman December 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm

M:FTW! It’s so wonderful to know that there are people as big hearted and giving as M that still can maintain a polite spine! It really gives one hope for humanity! We should all strive to be like her.

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Seiryuu December 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm

There are two things in particular that bug me about some religious people: proselytism and picking values while discarding others depending on the occasion. That woman was blatantly using her religion as an excuse and she should be ashamed for doing that.

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Yasuragi December 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm

My family is Seventh Day Adventist and I was raised relatively strictly under the iron fist of my religious grandmother. That meant no make-up, alcohol in the home, jewelry or fancy clothes. My grandma wouldn’t even wear the wedding ring my grandfather bought her. But even she allowed us to put beads and pretties in our hair.

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Anonymous December 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm

1. The woman who objected to the hair beads on “religious” grounds, and then made up an extra daughter to try to finagle a CD player was unquestionably rude.

2. M dealt with the rude woman perfectly.

3. This situation was a really blatant case of rudeness and ungraciousness. However, I think there are some “grey area” sort of situations, like the story of Stephanie and the Stinky Slime (wouldn’t that be an awesome title for a children’s book?) Anyway, I can think of another such scenario. I was in university, and I was involved with a one-on-one mentoring program similar to Big Brothers/Big Sisters, but run (poorly) through the school. The students in charge of this program were flaky, and routinely didn’t show up for the office hours they’d set for themselves, fmaterially changed events at the last minute, didn’t with the kids at events, and just fed them tons of candy and let us deal with the resulting meltdowns. Anyway, one of the events they held each year was a Christmas/holiday party. At one such party, they decided to have “Santa Claus” give the kids T-shirts that said “Blahblah University Mentoring Program,” with a cartoon drawing of our mascot. In theory, that was a fine idea, but in practice, the shirts were all “one-size-fits-all,” and the shirt they had for my kid was too small for him……and, he was an average-sized eight-year-old, right in the middle of the age group for the program (5-11, so, kindergarten through grade six, if I remember correctly). So, not knowing that there was just one size of shirt, I told Kiddo to give me his shirt, and I’d get him one that fit.

Anyway, when I went to the powers-that-be and explain the problem, and possibly swap the shirt for a bigger one, they said that there was nothing they could do about it, and they acted put out with ME, when they were the ones who’d dropped the ball. Of course, I got Kiddo a gift on my own, but I was still put out at the students in charge of the mentoring program, because the adult participants actually paid money to be a part of the program, which went towards things like Christmas gifts for our kids, which probably a lot of the kids couldn’t use, because the people in charge got lazy and decided that one size was enough for a seven-year age span. The year before that, they gave the kids stuffed animals of our mascot, which was a much better idea–I don’t know why they changed it to a clothing item the year after that. Stuffed animals, art sets, Nerf sports balls, crazy carpets, ANYTHING would have been better than one size of shirt for seven years of kids.

However, the incident in the OP is nothing like what I described. Obviously, the people in charge of that Christmas party put a lot of effort into selecting good gifts for all the kids; I was just trying to point out that the “be grateful for whatever you get” mentality can be used to shift the blame onto the recipients, when the problem actually lies with the givers/organizers.

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Lynne December 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Kate, Christmas is a Christian holiday, and as such it makes no sense to criticize Christians for asking people to remember its meaning. The fact that it has become commercialized and secularized is nit sonething that religious people are going to celebrate. You may choose to participate in secularized traditions associated with the holiday, but you’ll have to put up with the fact that it is a religious holiday, and that those who practice that religion will have religious things to say about it. Alternatively, you may choose to celebrate in other winter festivals or holidays that are not Christian.

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Lynne December 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Sorry for the typos.

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--Lia December 17, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I always wonder what people like this woman are thinking. One possibility is that it’s a thought-out manipulation, one that goes “hmm, the CD player is better, and I want it. I know! I’ll come up with an excuse, say I’m a Christian, and M will have to give it to me.” But I truly wonder if she’s not so much thinking of a way to pull one over on M and is, instead, deluding herself. With that, the thinking is more, “I’m a good person. I did someone a favor once, and from time to time I’ve given a quarter to charity. I’m a good Christian, and Christians deserve to get what they want at Christmas. M didn’t pay attention to my perfectly logical explanation so I have to make up the story about my other daughter. I mean, I do have a niece in another city whom I love like a daughter, and she’d be at this event if she were visiting this year. She’s never visited, but I know she’d like it if she ever did, and I know she’d like a CD player. This beads-in-hair thing is lame, and it’s not right. It’s not much of a lie because the CD player really is better . It’s more of a little white lie, one that you tell to make someone feel better, like the way you say your friend’s haircut isn’t that bad …”

I don’t, for a second, think any of that makes her behavior excusable, but I imagine that in her mind, it is.

Now about the power of free. Mine is a tiny story by comparison. I did some children’s theater when I was in high school. We went around to the different elementary schools to perform. At the end of the first act, before intermission, a few of us ran through the center aisle of the theaters and threw wrapped candy into the seats for the kids. The idea was that a few of the kids would have something fall on their lap, not that everyone would get exactly one piece. Looking back, I don’t know what we were thinking. Bad idea. At that age, kids have a great sense of fairness. “If he got something, I should too is their thinking.” Sure enough, one kid right by the aisle got a Hershey’s kiss and thought it appropriate to explain to me that he was allergic to chocolate and wanted the hard candy instead. I was in costume, moving fast, had to run to the back and then circle back stage to change costumes, and he wanted to start that conversation. From his point of view, it made perfect sense.

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Marozia December 17, 2012 at 6:35 pm

‘M’ handled that very well.
There always has to be some whinger. This woman is supposed to be a ‘Christian’ yet speaks to a fellow human being in that manner. Right royal charmer!! She’d complain about Heaven!
Since when was it a crime to wear hair decorations? They’ve been around since the dawn of time. The women of Jerusalem before and during Jesus’ time always adorned their hair for celebrations. This person must belong to some mind-controlling religious cult where you can’t even scratch yourself without being told to look in the bible or consult with the minister. More fool them.

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Cat Whisperer December 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Among the gripes I fielded when organizing our organization’s year-end “morale party”: one year we had several 10-pound giant Hershey milk chocolate bars as door prizes.

One of the people who won a giant Hershey bar complained that that was far too much chocolate for her to eat all by herself, it would have been better to give out 10 one-pound chocolate bars. She was serious.

…Which set me wondering if this lady had ever heard of a revoluntionary concept called “sharing.” 10 pounds of chocolate? Man, take it back to the office with you, break it up into pieces, keep whatever you want and let your co-workers take what they want, and you’ve made friends forever. It’s not a problem, it’s a party!

You have to wonder what universe some people come from, where receiving 10 pounds of chocolate as a prize is considered a complaint-worthy problem.

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Missy December 17, 2012 at 8:21 pm

This story reminds me of the story my mother told me about a lady she worked with putting her grandchildren on the Angel Tree (for underprivileged kids to get a gift for Christmas) and they weren’t needy at all.

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Stacey Frith-Smith December 17, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Wow! When is enough ever just enough? Hosts are sometimes raked over the coals for not being vegan, gluten free, dairy free, organic, fat free, tree nut free, Fair Trade certified, and whatever other label is considered the epitome of applied ethics and good health. Now we have come to complain of gifts from family, friends, community organizations and well-intentioned and generous hearts. We even hear complaints about the season- that it’s too secular or too religious or too commercial… I suppose that each person could celebrate in complete isolation and have the holiday festivities just exactly their own way with no other people around to muddy up the water with their gifts and annoying attempts to be friendly, but it runs counter to the spirit of the season. M was the epitome of graciousness here. It’s too bad that being a Grinch isn’t an offense that can be prosecuted by law as well as by etiquette. Otherwise there would be more of a deterrent to such awful conduct and fewer people would be tempted to drown their sorrows in eggnog and carbs after a Grinching.

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Roslyn December 17, 2012 at 8:38 pm

@Lynne

Sorry Lynne, not to nitpick what others have already said, but Christmas is the hijacked holiday of the Winter Solstice. In History it has gone by many names depending on if you are Roman, Greek, Celtic or Norse. The early Church tried to lure the Pagan people away from their traditions and into the new Christian traditions without much luck. So they just re-adopted an existing celebration called for the most part “Yule” or the Winter Solstice. The time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when the days begin to lengthen, bringing on the new growing season and bringing life back to the land to begin again. Most of the symbols of Christmas are actually Pagan based, pine trees, round ornaments, stars, singing, candles, bonfires etc.

Christmas is the name that the Church gave the old ways turning into the new ways. Many older deities have the virgin birth/December 25th label put on them, not just Jesus. In fact Puritans outlawed Christmas right here in the United States due to the fact that it was “too Pagan” of a Holiday and not suitable to their Christian beliefs.

I celebrate a secular Christmas with my children, as others have mentioned. Adopting the general modern message of Christmas, “Be good to others”.

There are so many different versions of Christianity it is very hard to lump them all into “Christians” since most of them don’t agree on their own religion. IMHO.

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Jewel December 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Well said, Lynne.

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Anonymous December 17, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Yeah, I’m sorry for the typos too. I meant, the PTB for the mentoring program materially changed events at the last minute, and didn’t interact with the kids there. Mods, could you please fix that? I hit “submit” before I was done editing.

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missminute December 17, 2012 at 9:08 pm

I don’t understand what this woman expected the event manager to do – rip a CD player out of one kid’s hands and give it to her daughter? I do think that the hair-beading kit is not covetable a gift as a CD player. I know I hated those kinds of bead kit things as a child and would have gone near-crazy seeing the older girls with CD players. But I would have vowed to save my pocket money and buy one!

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girl_with_all_the_yarn December 17, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I am so very glad that all of the children in each age group and gender got the same present.

When I was a kid we went to a similar sort of event put on by my dad’s work. The difference was that the coordinator picked out piles of different gifts. No two were the same. I’m very crowd-phobic because of a hearing disorder and resulting speech impediment so I would try to avoid the other children as they were too loud, too rough and often too mean for me to enjoy being around them.

Unfortunately this wound up turning into a scenario similar to the one in “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” where the other kids are getting candy and Charlie brown is getting rocks. Because I didn’t want to be around the other kids and was too young and frightened of them to stand up for myself, I’d always be in the back of every line for everything. Because all of the gifts were different, the other kids would wind up with the awesome presents (hot wheels cars, coloring sets, books, etc.) and every year I’d get the last present in the bag: 4 times out of 5 it was a cheap pack of crappy pencils – you know, the kind you can’t even sharpen because the wood’s too soft. The one exception was the year they miscounted and I got a very cool box full of paper clips (yes, they snagged it out of the supply closet, no I didn’t care – paper clips are awesome art supplies).

It was disappointing getting something far less cool than the other kids, and all I could do was hope they wouldn’t tease me for it. My parents never said anything except for that last year. My dad was transferred shortly after that anyway, but meh.

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Anonymous December 17, 2012 at 11:45 pm

I think the rude woman assumed that the event organizers had extra gifts on hand, for each age/gender group, just in case of extra kids. Given the quality of these gifts, and the “pre-register in advance” system, I don’t think that that’s a reasonable expectation, but then, there’s no reasoning with some people. Anyway, does anyone here think that I was snowflakey on Kiddo’s behalf in the situation with the “one-size-fits-all” T-shirt scenario? I haven’t thought about it much since then, but in this type of situation, where do you draw the line between “reasonable request” and “special snowflake demand?”

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PM December 18, 2012 at 12:21 am

@missminute:

Yes, I suspect that is what this woman expected M to do, if not magically make a CD player appear. As long as her child wasn’t hurt or inconvenienced, I doubt she cared what M had to do to make it happen.

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Kendra December 18, 2012 at 12:22 am

@Stacy Frith-Smith
LOL, I know what you mean. I think we should go back to the older Christmas Celebrations. You know, back in the day when Christmas lasted 5 days and was a huge drunken orgy in the streets that made Mardi Gras in New Orleans look like a children’s sunday tea party. And don’t forget Wassailing, otherwise known as begging door to door for booze. ;-) Kinda hard to complain about the orange and fuschia Christmas sweater that Great Aunt Edna knit or what went into that pumpkin pie when you can’t stand up straight and are seeing double.

@ lynn & Jewel and others: I have a spiel about the history of Christmas I tend to pull out when someone gets into my space about Christmas being a christian holiday. The upshot is that Christmas was never really a religious holiday, to the extent that Christmas has been outlawed in multiple countries, several times over the years because it wasn’t “religious” enough. The puritans outlawed Christmas in the 1600’s because to them Christmas was a weeklong drunken orgy and because of it’s Pagan connections. In the 19th century, the US began re-inventing Christmas starting with C. Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” but it didn’t become a legal holiday until Alabama legalized it in 1836. It would be another 34 years (1870) before Christmas would be a federally recognized holiday. It has actually been about the last generation that the is it or isn’t it a christian holiday debate has become so heated.

I think at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether it is or isn’t. Though history says not, what is important is now. If it is all about Christ’s birth to you, then celebrate it, if it is all about Santa Clause to you, then celebrate it. There is no right way or wrong way to celebrate the season and, really, no one has the right to judge what Christmas means to someone else. So for Christians, Non-Christians and Athiests….keep the holiday in your way and accept and let others keep it in their way.

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David December 18, 2012 at 1:07 am

M handled the situation with poise and grace. My hat is off to her.

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Mer December 18, 2012 at 3:01 am

@Lynne and @Roslyn. This is actually hard topic, while I agree more with Roslyn, Lynne has the point that _Christ_mas is a, well a name for Christian celebration. Where it gets messy is that not all languages have similar name for the festival at this time of year and the origins are in pagan celebrations. In my country the name actually originates from the pagan name Yule, as it does in my neighboring countries. (jul, joulu etc.) Nowadays it is supposed to be a celebration for the birth of Jesus, while basically name and traditions are mainly from pagan celebrations. Society just tends to adapt, as Christians took the holiday name for them, now more… secular persons are taking the Christmas name for them to use for the holidays as it is widely used in society.

What I’m asking is understanding from both sides. Understanding from Christians that the celebrations around this time of year are not only originating from Christianity but more probably built in human beings over thousands of years (never noticed how these major celebrations seem to be around winter solstice, midsummer, and equinoxes). And on the other hand for those people who are more secular to understand that for some people this time of year has a very special meaning and while they do not have right to force the belief upon others, they do have right to have it as Christian celebration. I’m bit at loss of words here, just trying to say that Christian asking for other Christians remember it’s meaning is not rude. If this happens to be said for non-christian, what happens afterwards is what determines if it will be rude or not.

:) Sorry about bit incoherent post, it is a sore point with basically all being at wrong and at right at the same time.

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Bint December 18, 2012 at 3:58 am

Cat Whisperer: I do so feel the pain on the ‘morale party’, having been the one who organises the office Christmas party every year. The whingeing was unbelievable.

I still organise it and if anyone whinges, I tell them they’re welcome to organise an alternative. Works every time.

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Michelle December 18, 2012 at 8:23 am

“We’re Christians, and we don’t believe in beads for hair.” Now, that’s a good one! I think it was a Mel Brooke’s movie that had Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai carrying 3 tablets and saying to the people, “The Lord Jehovah has given me fifteen – “, and then he drops one of the tablets and it smashes to smithereens, ” – no – ten – Ten Commandments!” The “bead thing” must have been listed in the tablet he dropped!

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KJ December 18, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Some people will do anything to get a gift. Once when planning the company Christmas party, one particular employee declined to attend, until he found out what the door prizes were going to be.

Rotten.

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The Elf December 18, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Re: Christmas as a religious or secular holiday.

….. And this is why I like to wish people A Joyful Saturnalia. Just cuts right through the whole thing.

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Cat Whisperer December 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm

@Bint, the complaints I received from some people when I put the “morale party” sometimes left me reeling.

Two years in a row, we had the party at a nice restaurant that had a really good buffet. The second year we had it there, people griped to me about having it in the same place as the previous year.

So the next year, we had it in a different location. And I had to deal with the carpers who complained that they’d liked it at the place we had it the previous two years, why had we changed it?

We tried having it after work a couple of years, and people complained about having to spend their own time attending a function with people they worked with. When we moved it back to a lunch-time function, people complained that by having it at lunch, they couldn’t relax and spend the time they wanted to spend eating and socializing.

One year we gave out three PC laptop computers as top door-prizes, and two of the winners griped about how Apple computers were so much better than PC’s. The next year, we gave out two Apple laptops as top prizes, and one of the winners griped that since we all used PC’s at work, she’d never used a Mac and didn’t know what she was going to do with it.

One of the places we had the morale party was near the location where we all worked, and there were people who complained about it being too close to work. But when we held it at a place that was 20 minutes away from work, people didn’t like that because it was too far away.

When we had complaints about the party being kind of skimpy, we tried to combine our party with another department’s so we’d have more budget, and then people complained that there were all these people from the other organization that nobody knew. People from both departments complained.

After getting complaints that the party was “too formal” and “not enough fun,” we had it the following year at a local racetrack, where people could leave the banquet area to watch the races and even bet on the horses if they wanted to. And we had people complain that “there was too much going on.” (I won almost $200, so I sure wasn’t complaining!)

No matter what you do, when you organize a large party for a large, diverse group of people, you’re going to get complainers. It’s worth noting that the only “event” we ever had at a morale party that seemed to draw spontaneous enjoyment from just about everyone was the year when a supervisor nobody liked had a fender-bender in the parking lot. Years after the event, when time for the morale party came around, people would reminisce about “do you remember the party where ‘Steve’s’ car got rear-ended in the parking lot?”

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Abby December 19, 2012 at 11:23 am

@Bint,

My old boss (Vice President and HR person) would organize parties with food and gifts for employees and all she ever got were complaints. Her standard line was, I’ll be happy to refund the money you paid. That usually shut them up as well.

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whatever December 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm

so, she is soooo very christian that her daughter can’t even wear beads in her hair? but then, isn’t one of the 10 commandments something like “you shall not covet your neighbours house, wife or other property” (please excuse my crude translation, as english is not my first language i’ve never learned them in that language)? but that is just what she did! envy the older girls for the better present. and isn’t another one “you shall not lie”;which is just what she did by inventing another daughter trying to con out another present from poor M. and finally “you shall not steal” which is exactly what she would have done if her conning had succeded. and finally, last time i checked envy and greed were still capital sins. one fine christian she is. compared to that, a few beads in the hair don’t even register!

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feesh December 19, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Cat Whisperer,

It sounds like you should just forgo the party and destroy Steve’s car every year.

Thanks for the entertaining submission, though. I’m still laughing at “too close to work”.

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Tracy December 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm

“At the end of the first act, before intermission, a few of us ran through the center aisle of the theaters and threw wrapped candy into the seats for the kids. The idea was that a few of the kids would have something fall on their lap, not that everyone would get exactly one piece. Looking back, I don’t know what we were thinking. Bad idea.”

Goodness. I can’t imagine ANYONE thinking this was a good idea.

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penguintummy December 19, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Good on M! What a great way to deal with such an ungrateful woman. Every christmas and birthday my youngest sister insists on being given only exactly what she has asked for and nothing else! She cries and moans every time if it is something she has not asked for, even if it was really good (she is 20 years old). It is so annoying. A gift is just that, if you don’t want it, say thank you and quietly donate it or regift it.

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abcd123 December 20, 2012 at 12:49 am

I would have told her that the Christian thing to do is to graciously accept the gift and I would to have to a talk to your pastor and enlighten me about why the gift is not acceptable to Christians.

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NostalgicGal December 20, 2012 at 12:50 am

Our town had a Wish Star tree and an Elder Star tree, one at each of the two banks; for those in need. I participated, in taking one of each and working to buy off the list of items (a few toys or themes that the kid liked and their sizes, sizes for the adult and anything special they’d like) and deliver them in gift bags to the county office that ran this to suppliment the Social Services. Some things I did make but these were not cheap things, I took time and put effort into it, whether it was toys, accessories, lap robes, etc. I’d asked first and that was acceptable to the gal that ran the program. I did this for four years, giving back to the community I now lived in.

The year it died: I had spent several months making fashion doll clothes, a playmat with plastic canvas, foam, and other materials to scale furniture, and other things to go along with this; not crude or cheap by any means, a few boughten pieces to go with it… picked from the stars to mesh with this, and went to thrift store and the discount store and got just as new, or new, clothing, and detagged, and some of the just as new, I spruced by adding new cute buttons and trimming, etc. The gal that was in charge of the program knew how much I’d put into what should have been a wow gift for that little girl…

The parents came to pick up the gifts, looked in the bags, said ‘what the h*** is this s***’ and went outside and dumped the lot of it in the dumpster. It was NOT brand new (big box store) stuff with tags on it they could take back for the money. Furthermore it came out they lived in another town two counties and one state line away and had been faking stuff with their relative’s address in-town and signed up to get food dole here and the Star stuff.

To her credit the gal that ran things went out, retrieved everything, and gave it to another family that was truely in need that lived in the county. That ended the program. Last year they tried that clubs and organizations could go to the Social Services Office, inquire, and get a referred family or child; this year, nothing at all.

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Molly December 20, 2012 at 3:19 am

@Missy, that sounds like something that could be submitted to ehell itself. Who the heck takes advantage of something like that to score free stuff for a kid whose parents don’t need the help?!

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minakelly December 20, 2012 at 11:11 am

“At the end of the first act, before intermission, a few of us ran through the center aisle of the theaters and threw wrapped candy into the seats for the kids. The idea was that a few of the kids would have something fall on their lap, not that everyone would get exactly one piece. Looking back, I don’t know what we were thinking. Bad idea.”

Goodness. I can’t imagine ANYONE thinking this was a good idea.”

I don’t know if this is sarcasm? In the UK it’s traditional to do exactly this at pantomimes (cheesy christmas fairy tale plays). Quite how it passes the health and safety these days I’m not sure, but it’s still perfectly common.

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Library Diva December 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm

The comments on this post are among the most depressing I’ve read in a long time. What’s happened to people that they’ve completely allowed their senses of greed and entitlement to take over? I have been to some company parties that were honestly pretty crappy, grim and depressing. I never said a bad word about them to anyone because at the end of the day, no employer is obliged to throw one, or even to allow employees time to organize their own.

And I can’t imagine how ugly someone would have to be inside to exploit a program designed to help needy children at Christmas. You just know that if you confronted someone like that, they would not only be completely unashamed, but would act like they were incredibly clever, and imply that you were the idiot for not going to scoop up free Christmas gifts.

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