Y. N. Harari, in his book “Sapiens”, says that consumerism is the modern religion. Christmas illustrates this perfectly - while most religious traditions have a celebration around this time of the year, it is the consumerist festivity that speaks the loudest. Every year, from November onward, we are bombarded with the “festive spirit” - shops, billboards and ads create an atmosphere of forced merriment that says only one thing: “Buy! Buy! Buy!”
Saying that, I am not your average Grinch. I love my little Holiday traditions - decorating the tree, breakfasting a rabanada on Christmas Day, walking through streets decorated with colourful lights.
I believe it is possible to enjoy Christmas without being dragged into the shopping trap. The nightmare before Christmas - chock-a-block shops filled with rushed people, panicking because they didn’t buy their presents earlier. Overworked shop assistants cursing the Holidays behind a false smile. The numbers on the bank account dropping towards zero, but we are supposed to spend spend spend, even if we’d rather relax instead. Do people genuinely enjoy this? Many of us shop online to avoid this madness, and my question is - why shop at all?
For me, the best thing about the Holidays is showing my appreciation for the people in my life - but who says this needs to be done with presents? Only those who want your money, time and patience. Well, my suggestion this year is:
FIGHT THE SYSTEM!
Show your love for others in more meaningful ways, that will actually improve your relationships instead of increasing your stress levels.
1 - Give the gift of time
In this rushed world, most of us don’t have much time to spare. Time became a valued asset, and we keep wishing for more time in our busy schedules. That is why time is the perfect gift - instead of wasting your time getting presents, give your time directly to the people you love.
So... what are you waiting for? Get a beautiful piece of paper and offer a voucher of your time!
Here are some ideas to get your started:
“This voucher is worth one evening of babysitting.” - for the parents who haven’t had a night out with friends in the past couple of years.
“This voucher is worth one spring cleaning” - for the hard working sibling who never has the time to tidy up their home
“This voucher is worth one week of home made dinners at my place” - for the friend who lives alone and can't be bothered to cook.
“This voucher is worth one afternoon of fun.” - for the friend who wished they saw you more often.
The best part of this idea is that you will be offering your love after Christmas - when everyone will be suffering from January blues, you'll feel the fuzzy contentment of doing something good for your family and friends.
2 - Show your love with words
Beautiful words take time to write and last in one’s memory. Rather than getting a card with a generic message, why don’t you write your own card, or perhaps a letter? You could write a list of your favourite moments together, say what makes that person special in your life, remember the first days of your friendship and how much you’ve grown since then.
Re-discover the lost art of writing letters - and for extra quirkiness, why not send it on the post, instead of using your email? Yesterday the postman brought me a hand-written letter from my best friend, and it was a better surprise than any gift she could have given me!
3 - Offer your art
If you’ve been developing your artistic mind, this is the perfect opportunity to share your skills. If you love to draw, or offer a framed drawing. If you love music, you can record yourself playing, or simply create a playlist of your favourite songs, selected while thinking of that person.
No matter what your art is - creating handmade dolls or making delicious jam - this is a chance for you to practice, show your work and how much you love someone.
When you knit a scarf for a friend, you are knitting love in every stitch.
6 - Offer memories
Most of us don't have physical photos anymore - and that is what makes them extra special. You can either offer a framed photo or an old fashioned photo album, preferably with annotations that make each photo unique!
4 - Offer experiences
If you still feel you need to spend money to show your love, I suggest offering an experience you can share with that person. Space is at a premium and cleaning is hard work - and that's why no one wants extra junk. But to share a moment with a dear friend is something that most of us treasure.
Go to the theatre, be a tourist in your own city, go away for a whole weekend or just for an afternoon tea. Just remember to leave your phone to the side and pay attention to the person next to you!
7 - You can still buy someone a present - if you know they really want it.
I have given you a few ideas for meaningful presents that go against the frenzy of consumerism.
However, there is no reason to stop buying presents altogether. If you know that a person really wants or needs something, but unfortunately can’t afford it, it is a good idea to give them what they wish as a Christmas present. But always remember that your present will be even more meaningful if you take the time to deliver it, and spend time with the person you’re giving the present to.
8- Buying presents for children.
Most of us have fond childhood memories of receiving presents on Christmas day. Shaking the wrapped boxes in anticipation, dreaming about new toys months in advance, spending Christmas day playing with new things or reading new books - it is a magical experience, and I wouldn’t suggest depriving your children of it.
I don’t think indulging your child at Christmas will make them mindless consumerists as adults. I loved Christmas presents as a child, but as I grew older, the feeling of the early years became impossible to replicate. It is likely that the same will happen with your children, so save your money to get them presents.
However, it is still important to remember that toy and gaming companies take advantage of this bit of childhood fun. When it comes to choosing presents, it is a good idea to discuss with the child what they want and understand what their motivations are. It is better to give them something that they will enjoy for a long time instead of a short term fad, and it is better if the toys you give them will also improve the right skills.
I hope you enjoyed my suggestions. Do you enjoy buying presents, or do you dread it? Is it a choice or a chore? Please feel free to let me know by commenting or emailing me at email.jothemonster.com.
Whatever your view on presents is, I wish you Happy Holidays and a very good 2018 :)