A Christmas Carol: buying presents

When it comes to Christmas present buying, I seem to have lost my mojo. It wasn’t always so.

I don’t want to adopt the Scrooge approach. I read a bit today about Saint Nicholas, and his frequent and anonymous gift giving. That seemed like a good thing.

At the same time, I seem to have reached a point in life where presents seem less important. I am lucky to have the things I need, and more.

As relatives grow older (clearly I do too), it can become harder to work out what to buy for them, when they too have what they need – some may already be giving away possessions.

And yet. There is something special about receiving a present – and something equally special about planning the right item for the right person.

====

Christmas Past

Once upon a time, there was a little girl, who was excited about presents, but not so clear on the notion of keeping secrets. So one year, pre-Christmas, she rushed up to her daddy and said, “We’ve got your Christmas present! We got you SOCKS!”

I have moved on a little since then. (And my father has been known to receive more than socks.)

In my teens, I would think carefully about what to buy – for varied school friends, as well as family. I would even do a special day trip to look for more unusual presents than I might find in our fairly small town.

Once I was old enough to travel a bit further, independently, that was an even better source of presents. Painted wooden candlesticks, bowls and so on from Poland.

Linens from one place – honey from many more. (My mum likes honey, and likes trying different kinds.)

It was fun to go looking, trying to find items typical of a particular place – or things that were just beautiful, and right for someone I had in mind.

It didn’t always go right, of course. The item that I loved might not be so appreciated by a relative who already knew what kind of calendar she liked, and didn’t want a fancy Italian one. Even if it was on beautiful paper.

But mostly, there was joy on both sides. Certainly on mine, as the giver.

====

Christmas Present

These days, going across town can constitute a work trip. Going abroad takes lots of planning – and more effort than I remember in the past.

So I am left with my imagination, a few ideas from the Internet at times, and whatever I might come across when doing regular food shops. (This is fine, convenient too, but it’s not always a place of  great gift inspiration.)

What has also changed is my realisation of just how easily gifts can be bought, added to, stockpiled. And all of a sudden, that item that you thought long and hard over, hoped would be treasured, is now just one in a collection of many.

What’s left is a desire not to buy things people don’t want. Which tends to mean I mostly buy tokens, give cash, or (with some relatives) make donations on their behalf.

There’s a small counterbalance to this. It’s less fun to open an envelope than a present, so in some cases I do both: the money for them to choose, and something small to open there and then.

Back in the spring, when I did my eco series, there was one post I had meant to write, and never got round to. The notion was: buy items that can be recycled.

I don’t mean that the person takes them straight off to the charity shop – or into a recycling bin. That would suggest that you had seriously got it wrong.

But items that are made of natural materials; that can be used up (food, of course); that can have a further life with another family, or in a charity shop, if and when you choose to part with them.

Books. Food. CDs, maybe. Games that can be passed on to others in turn.

(If I’m honest, I would just buy books for everyone on my presents list, all the time. I can get excited about that.

But I appreciate that it’s not everyone’s idea of a present – and sometimes even the avid book collector may question the need for another book.)

=======

Christmas Future

What about you? Are you still a keen present buyer – or recipient? Has it all paled a bit?
Do you look to the kids’ generation to be excited about present giving again?

St Nicholas gave to those who needed it – used up his inheritance that way, in fact. The Christmas story tells us of a priceless gift, one longed for by some, overlooked by others.

I want to come back to something of that sense of value and honouring in the gifts that I give. I don’t know exactly how, in a time and location that seems more about excess than value.

But I’m thinking about it. And as we’re told, it’s the thought that counts.

Comments

comments