I hate Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my friends and family (individual results may vary), am delighted to cook for them or buy them things they need or desire and a simple glance at my reader’s physique will assure you I love to eat. It’s just the obligation and expectation that annoys me.
I particularly struggle with the present buying. I also struggle with the fact women do everything and if they didn’t there would be nothing organised, no plans, shopping not done, there would be no food on the table or presents under the tree but that, my friend is another column.
We are white middle class people who have everything we need. When my three boys were little the aftermath of unwrapping all their Christmas presents ( I am one of five children ) looked like a Malaysian rubbish heap. The paper, the packaging, the plastic choking hazards, the things with bits that will be lost tomorrow, trampled underfoot, eaten by the dog or sucked up the vacuum cleaner made me taste a little bit of sick in my mouth.
The just ticking stuff off the list and buying the cheapest gift possible for people who don’t need or want for anything and it goes against everything I believe in.
Sure the boys loved the presents, but not all of them and not forever. The things they loved best were often not the gifts that were the big Christmas morning hits but the pyjamas, books and stuff like a new lunchbox. You know what I loved? Chucking the broken ones out and sending the unloved and unused ones off to new homes.
We spend so much of our lives trying to make ends meet and being environmentally friendly yet the week before Christmas we max out our credit cards on a sack of junk made from unsustainable products in unfair conditions in the developing world.
It would be ace if we could all spend a heap of money on sustainable gifts for everyone but the chances are you, like me, are not independently wealthy.
Every time you spend a dollar you are voting on how your want the world to be. Buy from local, independent, feminist businesses. Vouchers from a restaurant, bookshop, masseur or bath house, florist, clothes shop, nursery, hairdresser, or sport store are excellent. How about a bit of pampering with a mani pedi or a float in a floatation tank? This will not only be a gift for your loved one but also for the local business. I was at our local farmers market the other day and the place was chockers with fab gifts; gourmet dark chocolate and orange Christmas puds, handmade organic fudge, boutique soap and locally brewed cider with no preservatives!
Everyone eats, everyone drinks! Buy them some consumables! Gourmet hampers are awesome but you can make your own with all your favourite things. If you can’t stretch to a hamper, some chocolate, sweets, cheese and crackers, tea or alcohol will work. You can also stock them up on something they use all the time. What brand of soap, coffee or shaving cream do they use? Get ‘em a six pack!
Better still, buy them a year’s worth of toilet paper. No one likes carting toilet paper home. And we do it almost every week. That family with babies, elderly relative or curmudgeon who says ‘I don’t need anything’ would love a big slab of 24 rolls! Imagine how much less they would have to lug home from the supermarket! Particularly when it helps build toilets in the developing world.
Guitar lessons, boot camp, a house spring clean, an oven clean, golf lessons, a session with a personal trainer, a car clean, window clean, a facial, a cooking course, a garden spruced up, movie tickets, theatre tickets, Melbourne International Comedy Festival tickets, a trip in a hot air balloon! Buy experiences! Buy your loved one a ticket or voucher to my Gunnas Writing Masterclass (dates here). I developed the class precisely for Christmas. So people could give an unforgettable carbon neutral gift that supported the arts and local businesses! I pay the venue, food, graphic designer and now other sessional teachers so when you purchase a ticket you are supporting a bunch of other local independent businesses. Including the places I purchase my frocks.
Donations. These are my favourite gifts ever. And the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre and Domestic Violence Victoria my charity of choice. If you want to give many charity organisations have gift catalogues and some even make cards you can gift telling the recipient you have purchased a goat, vaccinations, a toilet or a well for some of our brothers and sisters in developing countries.
Plants, framed photos and good quality towels are always well received. When in doubt, give money. Especially to kids.
Big family? Presents are for kids. Kris Kringle for the grown ups. We do a $50 limit at ours. Everyone posts their list online, you get something you want and you buy one present instead of 20.
Finally, if you do have to spend money on someone who is hard to buy for (or hates everything) buy something not only for someone you love but FROM someone you love. I bet you have people around you who do things, make things or teach things who you would love to buy from and give money too. So even if the present isn’t a hit, you have given your business to someone you love to spend money with. It’ll make their Christmas. I guarantee it.