Why does a meal taken with another provide more fulfillment? Why do we celebrate our birthdays with others? Why do people gather for Thanksgiving? Why do we come together on Christmas? Why do we have parties? Why is handing out monetary gifts on these occasions an altogether separate issue from the celebration?
Christmas parties for example are venues to celebrate with others whether they be family, friends, or colleagues the spirit and meaning of the season; it’s about purposively setting aside time amid busy-ness to collectively remember what Christmas is all about.
Celebrating such occasions with others rebuilds and strengthens community because the act for one asks that participants make sacrifices e.g. time and effort for others which folks today despite increased mobility and connectivity find it difficult to do even for a loved one.
We could on a loved one’s birthday, say, just gift him or her with a thousand bucks or a trip to space and back but these don’t compare with the effort to actually lift that phone in order to call and greet a friend happy birthday, or visit one’s mother and bring with you her favorite dish, or take a partner out to his or her favorite place for a shared meal. Similarly, in the workplace, management could always hand out Christmas bonuses to their employees but these don’t compare with the fellowship and collective joy that rank and file, staff, and management altogether get from celebrating the meaning of the day in the form of a Christmas party.
Communion and community which are the results of the transformative power of such gatherings are things bonuses cannot buy. Moreover, with the the increasing lack of community (kanya kanya, in Filipino) which is partly attributed to consumerism or the heady pursuit of material satisfaction, there have been increasing calls to rebuild and strengthen community.
The world has a name for the person who even at Christmas chooses to spend the day counting accumulated money: it’s Scrooge or more recently, Grinch. The lesson in that portrayal is there is always choices to make, in this instance, whether or not to make Christmas relevant even in trying times. Do we want workplaces in the future to be sanitized of celebrations? Individual choices taken collectively ultimately create the kind of present and future that we have and will have.