I have mentioned this many times now, but this year the adults on both sides of the family have all agreed not to buy each other presents this Christmas. The relief all round is palpable.
As a result, not only have I felt far less stressed, I have been able to focus my attention on things, well, slightly less rampantly consumerist. Rather than spending the weeks and months leading up to Christmas scrolling through online shops with my head filled with what to buy for whom (which always leads to me wanting things for myself too!), my head has been filled instead with other stuff. Like the activities Frankie and I can do together, the things I can make (for fun!) and also the time, energy and money that I can give too.
A different type of giving:
In particular, Aleppo has weighed heavily on my heart this Christmas and the money saved on Christmas presents meant we were able to give a decent donation to the International Medical Corps who are working on the ground there. We were able to do a big supermarket shop for the local Food-bank. We have also had the time and energy to do a sort of 'reverse advent' where we collect nice but unnecessary objects from the house and buy a few new bits to donate to either the food bank or local charity shops. In previous years I didn't really have the headspace to think about things like this (well not as much) so there has been a marked difference this year. Lots of my friends are in a similar boat regarding not buying presents for adults, either through choice or simple lack of funds, and we have all talked about how liberating it has been. It's meant that when a few of the group have faced crises in the last few weeks, we've been able to rally for them with 'love packages' as we call them; either cash or lovely things to lift them up and let them know they are loved. And isn't that what Christmas is truly about anyway?
There is a hell of a lot more I can do to be a better human, especially at Christmas time. I am not trying to brag (I could do a lot more to reduce waste, for example), but to talk about the profound affect that deciding not to buy gifts for the adults has had.
"Well, thats all well and good for you, but it's way too late for that this year" I hear you say, and yes, you're right. But over Christmas, during those post meal slobby chats, when the presents have been opened and everyone is feeling full and perhaps a little woozy, may be the best time to have a discussion with your family and friends addressing Christmas presents for next year. If you feel great about the level of gifting you have both given and received this year, and haven't found it all that stressful then yay! You have nailed Christmas! You probably don't need this. But if you've found yourself spending more than you wanted, or perhaps can afford, or if you feel uncomfortable about the amount of 'stuff' you are about to receive which you may not want, or if you've found the run up to Christmas generally a bit stressful and overwhelming, then read on.
Conversations to have now to make next Christmas easier:
- Suggest no presents. A good friend of mine has always questioned the strange custom of passing money around the table. You might be surprised at how receptive everyone is to this! Our version of this is no presents for the adults in our respective families.
Sometimes, gift giving is an important way for a person to give or receive love, and if thats you, or the people in your family, then there are still lots of options. Here are some.
- Suggest a £5 budget. Some friends have done this in their family and it was very well received, forcing people to be really quite creative. Good for budget perhaps, but time consuming.
- Suggest a secret Santa- with a budget. This means everyone still opens something, and enables the people who love via gift giving to sink their teeth into a gift project, without everyone spending a fortune or generating waste and excess.
- If you have a foody family, suggest a food only year (think amazing bottles of wine, or a beautifully aged cheese- that sort of thing.
- Suggest experiences instead. Maybe you all contribute to a special family holiday, or give each other membership to a favourite art gallery or museum.
- Steer the conversation to things you can do together next year, rather than what to buy each other. Suggestions: have a making party- with or without kids. Make beauty products (more below) or Christmas cards/ decorations. Or get together to make Christmas pudding and mincemeat or other Christmassy foods. Plan a special walk or winter picnic. Or go to the theatre or have a special family meal somewhere. These things could become wonderful family traditions that steer the focus away from 'stuff'.
- Share ideas about the different ways to give to charities over Christmas; whether that's to a local food bank or an overseas aid appeal.
- If you feel like your kids are drowning under a tidal wave of gifts that they might not play with, suggest now that maybe next year you buy them experiences, instead of gifts. Swimming lessons or just homemade swimming vouchers (this is a sure fire way to my daughters heart!), or a membership to a local wildlife park, or ballet lessons. Or do what we did and invite contributions from everyone toward one big thing: Frankie-Rose is getting a her first bike this year because of this.
- If you have crafty friends and family, then suggest handmade products- which could involve foody gifts too.
These are just a few ideas I've had about how to make things feel a little bit less focussed on 'things' and instead focussed on love and time together, but this is a learning curve for me and I would dearly love to hear of any ideas you've had, or any of the things you do with your friends and family, to reduce the materialism of Christmas, in the comments.
DIY Beauty Gifts
Earlier in December, my Sister in Law Ray and our friend Natasha got together and had a making day where we made beauty products. Seeing as I didn't *need* presents for friends or adult family members this year, I joined in to make some things for me (yes, me! how lovely is that?!) and also a few friends who have birthdays in December. It was such a lovely way to spend a day, and I'd really recommend doing this for next Christmas, we have already said we'll hold a few!
This blog post is long enough without including all the recipes for the beauty products here, but If you'd like them sign up below and I'll email them over to you in the New Year. They'll be useful for next years Birthdays and Christmas gifts, and of course useful for yourself too! The recipes include lip balm, beeswax candles, bath soak, face scrubs, and bath salts too.
So that wraps up (see what I did there!) my soulful Christmas blog posts, I hope you've enjoyed them!
I'm leaving you with a hearty Happy Christmas! I know this time of year isn't easy for lots of people, but however you're approaching the next few days, I wish you time with people who nurture and love you, time for rest and hibernation, and time doing things that make you happy.