Once again, Christmas has sneaked up on us. It seemed like only yesterday I was sorting out my Halloween costume. Now I have to figure out gifts for everyone on my list and there are only a handful of shopping days left.

It is one of the great mysteries of our materialist society. How is it that in a city like Hong Kong, where people not only love, but are addicted to, shopping, we keep putting off gift-buying until the very last minute?

I confess I am very guilty of this charge. My theory - and excuse - is that it's always a big headache deciding what our loved ones might want for Christmas, whereas it's incredibly easy and tempting to stroll through Pacific Place's third floor and want to buy everything for yourself.

Alas, that's not the spirit of Christmas. The holiday season is all about decking halls with boughs of holly and bringing joy to the world, however naive and self-delusional that sentiment is. Being nice is simply unnatural to our "me-first" mentality. For 364 days, we're encouraged to compete and step over each other in a rat race. Then for Jesus' birthday, we're supposed to bring peace to all mankind?

This is the reason for all the hampers and fruit baskets being delivered to offices across town over the next couple of weeks. It's the gentle corporate way of saying, "Merry Christmas and sorry for abusing and exploiting you this past year".

The festive season's emphasis on being gentle is almost compelling enough to overcome our greed and self-obsession. Walking through a mall, it's actually heart-warming to have people offer good tidings and cheer. If not for all the crass commercialism, Christmas would have been a great PR campaign to discourage people acting like jerks all the time.

Unfortunately for me, that warm fuzzy feeling only lasts until I smell a good sale. Then it's every (wo)man for him(her)self! I'll admit, when I find a bargain - or a really nice outfit in my size - I'm not thinking, "that would be a nice present for Aunt Gertrude". I'm sure Gertrude is not thinking about me when she's at the dried goods store loading up on fish maw and birds' nest. Last year, she bought me a cheap blouse that she bragged was very stylish and classy. I opened the box from the Lo Wu shopping centre and thought, "Don we now our gay apparel"?

As Darwin proved, it's better that we just fend for ourselves. At least we're not being one of those fake Christmas people. Ho ho ho? Speak for yourself.

The Aristocrat