I don’t want to sound like a grinch, but I don’t like Christmas gifts. Don’t get me wrong, I still like receiving gifts. Not just at Christmas, but whenever. It’s always lovely to be surprised by someone you love, so naturally, I also enjoy giving gifts to those I love as well. Nevertheless, why should these times of giving be restricted to Christmas? And why should we have to exchange gifts at this one time of year?
A few changes in the last decade have caused me to take this anti-gift stance on Christmas. Firstly, in 2008, when the economy tanked, both sides of my extended family decided to cancel gift exchanges. Since then, one side has picked gift giving back up — but only for the great grandchildren. The other side has kicked the habit entirely (but in the interest of full disclosure, there are no great grandkids on this side yet and when they arrive, I imagine gift giving for the kiddos will resume in full force). Back when the decision was made to cancel the gift giving, I was definitely disappointed at first, but the lack of holiday shopping madness was a welcome reprieve. Furthermore, on Christmas day, we decided to fill the gift exchange void with games and good old fashioned talking, which turned out to be much more enjoyable than watching everyone open presents.
Secondly, my husband is Chinese, and he has never exchanged gifts at Christmas. His family generally gathers together at Christmas because everyone has several days off of work. And there is a massive feast because there is always a massive feast when a Chinese family gets together. But they never exchange gifts. From time to time throughout the year, if one family member sees something that another one might want, then presents are bought and given when you next see each other. At first, this felt wrong to me, but you can’t argue with the practicality.
Thirdly, I’ve moved to the UK permanently. This means that every Christmas we have to decide where to celebrate. Currently, we’re on a three year rotation schedule: one year in Britain, one year in America, and one year wherever my husband’s parents happen to be living, which currently means the UAE. As this year we are travelling to the states for Christmas, our entire Christmas budget has been blown on plane tickets.
This year, we were planning to cut out gift giving entirely because of the expense of travel. Nevertheless, as the holidays approach, I feel pressured to buy gifts. Everytime I meet up with friends, the talk turns to Christmas shopping. Sometimes we’re even meeting up in a Christmas market, which makes you feel even more obligated to buy things. Also, I want to buy Christmas gifts. Shopping can be fun. If plane tickets weren’t 1000 pounds a pop, then I’d probably be getting gifts for everyone.
I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but regardless of my overall negative feelings towards Christmas gift giving, I’m caving this year. Don’t have the budget for gifts? Too bad. My motto for this year is going to be go cheap or go home. Luckily, just as I really want my brother to bring me NY bagels for Christmas, he is missing some inexpensive, specialty food items from Borough Market. My mom is a sucker for ornaments, so I’m visiting all the markets until I can find just the right one at just the right price. I haven’t sorted out my dad yet, but perhaps we’ll bring him some Chinese cooking ingredients and teach him a new recipe. He loves experimenting in the kitchen.
The hardest person to shop for is always my husband. The only things on his list every year are items that we haven’t bought because we can’t afford it yet: that expensive, top of the line camera, a new computer, etc. I’ve tried the finding-small-things-he-might-like route and the making-him-something route — these don’t generally go over very well. He acts like he likes them, but from the lack of actual use these items get, it’s pretty clear that he isn’t into it, no matter how much he may pretend otherwise. Recently, I brought up this predicament to a new friend and she suggested getting something we could do together. Like cooking classes or tickets to an event, etc. I feel like this is the perfect solution. We absolutely have a list of things we want to do and eventually when we decide to go for it, we would spend the money anyway. Something something… sunk costs vs prospective costs — good enough justification, eh?
So I guess the point is: consumerism wins again. Merry Christmas?