Ahhhh, Christmas. The lovely smells of baking sweet sticky things. The dreams of sugar plums. The sparkling lights. The joy. The anticipation. For some, even the celebration of the birth of their considered savior. Oh yeah, and the endless rush to go out and buy lots and lots of stuff, ’cause you feel you have to.
If you have someone on your list and don’t have any idea what to buy them, DON’T. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Buying needless crap for the sake of buying needless crap is exactly why we are where we are in this country. On so many levels. On the knee-jerk consumerism level. On the using up resources way faster than we replace them level. On the we have lost track of what really matters in life level. How about the old bumper sticker: The best things in life aren’t things. Or how about the heart warming thought that what really matters in relationships and experiences.
It’s HARD to resist. I remember so vividly the anticipation and excitement of Christmas morning and the unbridled joy of seeing the HUGE mound of presents under the tree. Sometimes it didn’t really matter what was actually in the packages. It was the cacophony of color, the pure volume of stuff in a mostly non-materialistic childhood. But these days, for many families, even when they don’t really have the means, stuff, lots of it, at a constant flow, is just a normal part of life. Christmas (if it’s your chosen holiday – sorry everyone else, I have to write what I know) is just the crowning glory of a life filled with stuff. Thank you Walmart. Thank you Target. Thank you TV advertising that targets children’s young, impressionable minds and uses their pester power to wear down their parents.
The irony is that it’s pretty clear that in addition to trashing the planet, all this stuff isn’t actually making us happy. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of it, you can read a scholarly paper here. The bottom line is that personal connections and spending time with other people and experiences make us happy. All that stuff just gets in the way. [See my review on the Economics of Happiness for more on that].
So here’s a suggestion. Think carefully about the whole present thing. Consider making it just for the kids. Forgo the crazy gift giving among adults. Instead make the gift of each other’s company, a good meal, time spent together, a family game, a walk in the woods, home-made soup, jam, cookies, pie, bread, wine, whiskey, whatever (anything you can eat doesn’t count as stuff in my book).
By the way, if you’re looking for recipes of yummy things to give as gifts, here’s my new favorite cooking blog: Joy the Baker. But there’s also no shame in giving something bought if you do it thoughtfully. No huge box of choccies for the friend who’s always dieting – how about some gourmet soup or fancy spreads to go on her melba toast! Consider booze only for those you know well. Deliver things in reusable containers (pretty mason jars aren’t just for jam) and gift boxes – I have some I have been using for years. They are pretty and fun and I change the ribbons from year to year. They have become like old friends in the family.