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AS MUCH as I love the start of winter, ice skating, the smell of vin brulé and the sight of Christmas decorations, I can’t stand the capitalist part of this holiday. No, I’m not a Grinch, nor was I tortured as a child around this time of year specifically. I have just always had a problem with buying people material objects for Christmas and I refuse to do so.
I have had many questions about how our society is structured with giving at this time of year being rendered quasi-compulsion. I recall my first Christmas in the UK in 2007 and I had started to see someone who was so obsessed with Christmas and could not understand my philosophy of boycotting gifts. She ran about Oxford Circus in a haze, repeating, “I am the best gift giver in my family … everyone always says I give the best gifts.” OK, I thought. I guess that’s a skill. But each day towards Christmas, I witness this person become more and more upset as if what she was doing were never enough.
Let’s just say, nothing has convinced me more of my politics of “no gifts” as much as witnessing the anxiety before me that Christmas. Instead of watching a person who enjoyed a festive time of year, as she repeatedly claimed, I witnessed someone in the throes of a quasi-pathological need to please others as she grew more anxious and doubtful of her Christmas gift decisions. It was clear to me that for her the sense of reciprocity and not blue ribbons was lost on her as she proved to become more anxious, not festive, around Christmas where the “retail therapy” she was engaging in might have been best spent on therapy therapy.
Running about Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street and sweeping the internet in search of Amazon deals might be some people’s idea of the Christmas spirit, but it is emblematic of all that is wrong with this celebration today. When people ask me why I don’t “do gifts” I respond saying that I prefer presence and not presents. It might sound trite as an expression, but I have found great serenity in making Christmas uniquely about preparing meals for friends and family, putting away work and focusing on playing games, reading, watching classic films and catching up with people.
Still, having a Christmas where presence and not presents is the focus is something I am finding increasingly difficult to do — and not because I have children.
Thus far, I have had no resistance from my children. It is largely adults who say: “But we have to give presents … It’s how we celebrate Christmas.” It makes having a “blended Christmas” with those that do give gifts and prioritise gift-giving a bit awkward.
Then I try to explain my position in as much clarity as possible as I state that I really don’t want anyone to give me anything and that I am a minimalist. I have one winter hat, one set of gloves and so forth. I really don’t want collections of anything, much less “thoughtful gifts.” For me, the most thoughtful gift anyone can give is to turn off their mobile and stop responding to morons on Twitter.
I point out that in the British Christmas season, people eat approximately 80 per cent more food than the rest of the year, dispose of 227,000 miles of wrapping paper, 500 tonnes of tin foil and 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging. This is in addition to the 6-8 million live Christmas trees that people buy and then throw away.
So, dear reader, I ask if perhaps this Christmas you might contemplate some new Christmas traditions that might seem anathema to your previous year’s celebration.
Try a Christmas without any purchases whatsoever outside the foods necessary to create a meal for your friends, family, neighbours and perhaps enough for a complete stranger in your building who might be spending this time of year alone.
Do I ask for too much?
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