I am an avid supporter of ‘Christmas’ as a festivity. It is as though someone, somewhere, realised that I need an excuse to spend lots of money, give gifts, eat loads, put on a few pounds and watch cheesy films without being ridiculed. I confess, I do these things regardless of season or holiday period, yet how thoughtful of somebody to offer me a justification for it all!
However, there is one thing that gets on my wick. The complexities of present buying have turned the act into an irrational catastrophe; Christmas has turned into a retail heaven, a holiday that should be sponsored by department stores. It convinces you that your great aunt really needs a pumice foot scrub or a tacky pair of earrings from Argos. NO! You will only end up getting them back in Secret Santa a decade from now, discovering they were put on eBay or shoved in the dustbin along with leftover turkey skin.
I will disclose that in the past I have fell into the trap of getting presents of which I am unsure of the response, or as an extra something to fill the packaging, but I do believe in giving presents that people WANT. This is obviously easier said than done the majority of the time. But why should it be? People across the world are obsessed with getting or giving ‘surprises’ and wrapping things up to the nth degree with ribbons and all sorts, so If what’s under the packing is underwhelming, then what a great shame that is! Although the ‘what do you want?’ line isn’t very exciting, writing a Christmas list is fun, and that way at least you get those things that have been in your ASOS wish list for months on end.
So here is my argument for why society has warped out views and made us feel guilty/bad/uncomfortable buying, or not buying, certain things. Working in The Body Shop, people come in and buy gift cards every day. Yet, it’s always with a troubled expression that they hand over that £20 note, and they seem to begrudge the little envelope it’s exchanged for. It’s like they’ve let themselves down by buying this plastic rectangle instead of an elaborate combination of products. We have all perfected the ‘Oh WOW! This is JUST what I wanted!’ spiel in preparation for any gift, and sometimes this is genuine. Yet, some of the time it is not, and on receiving that pack of ‘Wise Woman’ skincare which assumes you are 50+ when you’re really, really not, a voucher in its place would have been sufficient, honestly.
Another thing that cheeses me off is knowing who to buy for in the first place. Having some arrangements for extended family is vital, spending generously on immediate family is a given, yet there’s always those extra few who either haven’t crossed your mind, or who you fixate on numerous times. Will they or won’t they send a card, or give you a present? Do your flatmates expect anything, and are your boyfriend’s family wrapping something thoughtful for you as you ponder? It drives me round the bend. There is nothing worse than thinking you have signed every card and purchased every last gift tag you need, than receiving a considerate package from somebody who you, well, forgot about.
Now, to introduce the pre/post-Christmas luxury present dilemma. Those gifts which cost a lot, or have a set date (e.g. Miranda Hart’s What I Call Live show, 2014…) If they occur before Christmas, that person if left without a treat to open, having already indulged. If they occur after, the tickets (for example) are simply pinned on the noticeboard and ignored for a few months. Whether or not it is out of this world, without the immediacy of the present, the capacity to excite is lost. This just isn’t what you see on any Christmas advert or film, so lots of people feel that they need to add to this already expensive/important present with something, ANYTHING, to open, in a bid to restore Christmas tradition. In October, I took my other half away to Copenhagen for three days. Spending over £1000 was slightly insane, and needless to say, it was a joint birthday and Christmas present. So why, oh good Lord why, has it now reached December and I am feeling BAD for not having given him anything to open on Christmas Day?! It’s not like anybody has turned to me and said ‘Crikey, that’s a bit harsh, sure you took him away, but that was over a month ago and regardless of what you spent, that man needs something under the tree this INSTANT!’, yet, my subconscious is niggling at me. Luckily, I have the willpower to shove her in bubble wrap to muffle her screams, wrap her in tinsel and into the Christmas pudding bin bag. I’ll just have to grin and bear the disapproving eyebrows she raises at me as I saunter past the Christmas stores, not even taking a glance for fear of succumbing to the pressures of present buying.