WHICHEVER way you look at it, the magic of Christmas Day is long gone.
A couple of decades ago, come Christmas, every home got a fresh layer of paint, a spring-cleaning, our mom's brewed ginger beer and bucketfulls home-baked cake.
We kids were assured of new clothes for the day and then a new set for New Year's Day. The luckier ones also received an outfit for "first Sunday".
This past Christmas my little nephews and nieces thought I was quite humorous when I offered to buy them clothing "for Christmas".
If I had money to spare, they suggested, they would appreciate ipods and flat-screen TV sets for their bedrooms.
Well, "uncle" had no money to spare - or to play with.
But then something very wrong is happening with the rest of this world.
When you bring kids oranges and chips from town, they give you a "So what?" response. It's like you have brought mealie-meal and Sunlight soap.
When we grew up we would devour the chips and even chew the paper packaging for their remnants of salt and vinegar.
But now kids pass matric and expect to be bought cars, when matric is a basic rite of passage. It is very much like asking to be rewarded for being born - or growing up.
So I was not too surprised when I watched a reality TV programme entitled Sweet 16, in which filthy rich parents spoil their kids rotten when they turn 16.
They throw them parties that cost an amount that would be enough to get Zimbabwe out of its woes.
In last week's episode a daughter who was being thrown a party like this was given a spanking new Nissan as a birthday present, and she responded: "So what? Am I supposed to go on and say I like it? I don't want it! I don't want it!"
It was a prank. The real present was a Mercedes with all the bells and whistles.
Call me jealous, stingy or mean, but even if I had Rockefeller's trillions I wouldn't buy a 16-year-old a Mercedes just for turning 16. No bloody ways.
Few people believe me when I tell them that once, when my now departed old man became concerned about my laziness (when he was nasty he called me Lazy Bones), he bought me a shovel and garden fork as a "Christmas present".
After that, when other boys went out to play soccer with the balls they had received for Christmas, and I asked to go and join them, he would say: "You have your own presents. Go and play with them."
Our relationship was such that I couldn't tell him I didn't want to play then.
So I would dutifully take the damn implements and go "play" in the vegetable garden.
No one had apparently told my dad that all work and no play makes Charlie a dull boy.
When I raised this once when he was in a good mood, he retorted: "All play and no work will make Charlie an even duller boy."
Can't win, hey.