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I was seven years old when I found out Santa Claus did not exist. Up to that point I had been a very good boy, always treading carefully to make sure that I’d be on the good list at the end of the year –as if getting some dispensable presents was the most important thing in the world. It was in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve when I lay quietly on the floor behind our living room couch and watched my mother put the presents under a Christmas tree. And the next day when I opened my gift –it was a remote control car –she proceeded to tell me how much Santa loved me and how he had come in the middle of the night to deliver the toys for my brothers and I.
I was never tricked into believing Santa existed ever again, but since then I have often thought about what a simple toy can do for a child. Those who have very little to survive on, cannot afford to give their children the simple toys that I scoffed at as a child. But a toy can brighten a kid’s life in such enormous ways. Children’s imagination allows them to make something out of nothing –and that is a fact that I can attest to, having spent a good deal of my childhood coming up with creative ways to entertain myself.
I recently saw a news clip where a young boy was talking about a program where he was given the chance to pick any gift to give to his family members. I thought it was interesting that he’d pick gifts for his loved ones and not himself –I suppose he knows more about Christmas than I ever will.
But with all thoughts about Christmas and toys, a few moments must be spared to think about those who make the toys that mothers fight over at the stores and people line up for. Most toys are made by low wage workers in under-developed countries and developing countries. Their cost of living might be lower than ours –and one can even make the argument that at least they have a job –but there is a certain level of demoralization that comes with being a low wage worker. Low wage workers don’t get the respect or the adoration that high earners get, and one has to imagine it is worst in countries where the focus is on production at all costs. Worst of all, they don’t get the benefits afforded to others.
Labor laws are not the same in all countries, and we cannot expect others to hold the same standards in terms of the treatment of workers, but when this time of the year comes, it is perhaps a minimal gesture to think about the things we buy, where we buy them from, and the conditions under which they were made. Whatever our interpretations of what Christmas means, we cannot hide away from the fact that while we drink our eggnog and unwrap our gifts, the majority of people who make those items have a hard time getting through the holidays.
Charles Hedji is pursuing a BA in Communications and Culture. He is the author of “Fields of Discovery”, and “On the Eve of Departure”. He is also an avid Arsenal and Real Madrid fan.