A thin line between commercial and considerate
As Christmas trees and decorations begin to adorn the most unlikely of places around Beijing this yuletide, it does beg the question: Has the commercialization of the holiday season gotten out of hand? Debate Club decided to sit down with four lower sixth students from Harrow International School Beijing to discover their feelings on gift-giving, generosity and Scarlett Johansson.
Do you think the holiday season has become too commercialized?
Ben: Very much so. I’d definitely say that traditional holidays have taken a turn for the worse in terms of being overly commercialized. The emphasis nowadays, it seems, is more on what you get, rather than why you are giving that present in the first place or what the present signifies.
Chloe: I’ve never actually celebrated Christmas, as I’m part of a Chinese family. But I think China is a good example of how Christmas is overused for commercial purposes. Especially since most Chinese people don’t believe in Christmas. Instead, they use it as an excuse to give each other presents.
Lucas: I think it’s completely commercial. People have forgotten the traditions of Christianity and it’s just a time to buy presents. When I was living in Thailand, they would put up big Christmas trees in the center of Bangkok but it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone.
What does Christmas mean to you?
Lucas: Honestly, I don’t believe in God, so it’s just a time to give presents and get presents and be with your family.
Jenny: I think it kind of depends on who’s celebrating it. Although it may seem really commercialized because of all the products that are being sold on TV, when you’re home with your family it can have a good meaning to it.
Chloe: Christmas is based on religion as far as I’m concerned. Most people just see it as an event to get together with your family, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Is it really better to give a present than receive one?
Ben: That’s a difficult question because it depends on who’s giving the gift and who’s receiving, because you can use your own sense of empathy and your own feelings towards present-giving, and, not to sound cliché, but it gives a warm and fuzzy feeling when you give to someone.
Lucas: I would agree with Ben. It is good to see your mother’s or your father’s face when you give a present. But, honestly, who in their right mind doesn’t prefer getting a present than giving a present? That’s just human nature.
Jenny: I don’t know, because if you’re given a really bad present you have to pretend as if you really like it, but you really don’t. But then the whole problem about giving a present is: What if they don’t like it?
What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?
Chloe: The worst was not so much what I got but what I didn’t get. It’s when I was expecting one but I didn’t get one.
What do you usually think about when you are buying a gift for someone?
Ben: Practicality. Ultimately, how much is this person going to appreciate what I’ve gotten them?
Who’s the hardest person to buy gifts for?
Lucas: Women. You never know how to satisfy a woman with shopping.
Jenny: It’s so easy! What are you talking about?
Lucas: It’s very hard to shop for a female member of my family or for any woman in general.
Chloe: But with women you can always buy them something cliché like flowers or chocolates or jewelry.
Ben: I have to agree with Lucas on that. I’ve bought my sister innumerable things and every time she puts on that fake plastic smile when I give it to her.
Chloe: For some people, they appreciate anything that’s given to them. I think it just depends on the person, not the gender.
If you could get any gift in the coming year, what would it be and why?
Jenny: I want a record player and records.
Lucas: Scarlett Johansson, for a day.
Ben: A car when I go to college.
Chloe: I was about to say what Ben said, but … I don’t know. Personally, I don’t get presents too often. For me it’s easy to appreciate anything that people give me.
American-British student Ben Kay says the best present he ever received was a gift from someone else to give to his sister when he forgot to buy her one.
American Chloe Chang, whose parents are from Taiwan, says the best gift she received was a giant “get well” card from her classmates while in the hospital.
American Jenny Chen says her best buy was a Robert Cavalli leopard print scarf from H&M for her sister.
Lucas Fathing is from the UK and thinks the best present he has ever given was himself to his family.