Christmas is a time for giving – and a time for receiving. And each year over the festive period, tonnes of unwanted gifts (and their packaging) find a new home – in our landfills. Hongkongers simply don’t have enough space to fit all their holiday gifts into.

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I have known parents who will buy two of each present for their children, based on the logic: “I don’t want my kids to argue over their toys.”

Why, though, don’t we teach our children that the true spirit of Christmas is to be found in giving, not in receiving?

How many of the books, puzzles and toys that stuff Christmas stockings ever really get used in this disposable age? Not many, it would seem, based on how much time families spend on their smartphones and other devices, and how little of it on interacting with each other. These days, only rarely do you see a child enjoying something as lo-tech as a book or puzzle. Dining out recently, I witnessed one boy, who could have been no younger than eight, being fed an entire meal by his mother while he played on a phone, oblivious to her presence.

One of the best things Hong Kong parents could do for their children would be to spend time encouraging them to halve the number of toys and books in their cupboards – they would still have plenty – and discover the joy of donating the surplus to orphanages and charities that can make good use of them, such as Christian Action and Crossroads. Many of the children those charities help have never received a gift. Theirs’ is the joy of receiving that gives the gift of the joy of giving.

As American actor Bill Murray observed in the 1988 film-comedy Scrooged, “You have to do something. You have to take a chance. You have to get involved. There are people who don’t have enough to eat. There are people who are cold. I get it now. If you give, the miracle can happen to you. It can happen every day. You’ve just got to want the feeling.”