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JAMA 100 Years Ago
December 14, 2011


JAMA. 2011;306(22):2516. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1733

Like many other good things, the celebration of Christmas sometimes becomes formal and lifeless. Christmas giving, which should be the spontaneous expression of affection or good will, too often is merely the exchange of merchandise, “purchased in rage and bestowed in despair,” as William Dean Howells puts it. Even from the point of view of our profession, the bad effects, physical and mental, of the Christmas strain on both sides of the holiday counters in our shopping centers, amply justify a serious consideration of the question and a sincere effort to uphold a saner standard of Christmas giving. How can the custom be regenerated and made to yield its utmost meed of satisfaction and pleasure? Often its spirit may be best observed by giving no material commodity at all. Of all holiday giving nothing costs so little or gives so much pleasure as to take time to say or to write the word of appreciation for which there seems to be no appropriate season during the workaday year—to adjust, if need be, one's mental focus to appreciation. If we have been plodding along, each unmindful of others' efforts, this is the opportunity at once to enlarge our own mental horizon and to give real pleasure by sympathetic appreciation of others. It is not unworthy our efforts as physicians, moreover, while we are remembering our friends, to improve the hygiene of Christmas by restoring its spirit.

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