I was in Costco in late July here in Taipei, and I noticed that in one area of the store, there were preparations already for Christmas going on. It wasn’t a large display or anything like that at all. But it was shocking: the summer vacation is still in full swing, this is a non-Christian country in which Christmas is barely celebrated, yet somehow seeing the products for Christmas already being stacked reminded me how important, and how irrelevant the commercial Christmas really is.

With high levels of unemployment this year in the West, East Asia and elsewhere, I’m hoping that Christmas celebrations will be more muted than in the recent past. We don’t really need to give gifts to all and sundry, we really don’t. We don’t need to buy the latest gifts for our children, nephews, nieces because of what they’ve seen or read. Absolutely not.

Difficult times such as these call for simpler presents, perhaps holiday invitations, handmade cards or gifts, things made to remember the people around us, calendars, etc., are more appropriate this year than before. So before you crazy and max out your credit cards (a much easier task than in previous years), choose more personal and personalized gifts that the recipient will appreciate. And relax! It’s a holiday! Not an examination.