With Black Friday seemingly everywhere this year and Christmas jumper day at school in just two days time, (which is mental, it’s not even December yet) Christmas seems to be getting earlier every year. I know I am equally to blame, with this being my third Christmas related blog already.
So obviously what to buy for presents is a big thing. I love giving presents. I get far more excited about presents for other people than myself. There’s this language of love questionnaire thingie you can do online, looking at how you express your love for people, and how you experience others’ love for you. So for some people practical acts are how they express their love (my Dad putting me a toolkit together, or my husband putting out the bins, and doing the washing and cooking the meals and, and, and) others are very huggy and physically affectionate, and some people, like me, express it through giving people things. Now I don’t need to spend loads of cash. I love lending people things that matter to me, loaning out beloved books or slings or films. When I was younger there was nothing that made me happier than going to the corner shop with my cousins and buying them all an ice cream. I would plan a really special gift for someone and then almost burst with excitement having to wait the days/weeks till the day they finally got to open it.
I don’t particularly crave presents for myself. I am not at all fussed that I have agreed with most of my family not to really do Christmas or birthday gifts for years now. It’s nice to receive, I particularly love a surprise, but it isn’t nearly as important to me as the giving.
So Christmas should be present central in our house then??? Well, actually, not so much. I find the commercialisation of Christmas quite difficult to stomach really. I think it detracts from all the other stuff that I find really magical and exciting, the decorations and food and togetherness and tradition. My daughter talks lots about getting presents for Christmas, though with a bit of brainwashing from me she is starting to talk about the other fun bits of Christmas too. It’s strange though because when you ask her what she wants she doesn’t really know. She’s pretty certain she wants Lego, but that’s as far as it goes. She told me she’d written a letter to Santa at school, but couldn’t remember anything she’d put on it.
So at Christmas my dislike of turning it into a materialism frenzy actually overcomes my desperate desire to give people things. More or less. Last year I tried to stick to a suggestion I’d come across on the internet, something to wear, something to read, something they need and something they want. Just four gifts each then, perfect. I even managed to allocate some of those categories to family members to buy. But they would buy the one gift I had suggested and then three others too. We still ended up with huge piles of presents, many of which lay forgotten about by Boxing Day.
This year I have tried to follow the same rules, but when trying desperately to think what to get them to wear, I remember the fact that it is hard to shut their drawers as it is! I genuinely can’t think of a single thing they NEED. So they will get one toy each, and a couple of books, and I will stop trying to desperately make up something they need, and just buy less.
Am I the only person completely obsessed with children’s books? All of them from chunky lift the flap board books, beautiful illustrated picture books, fact books about dinosaurs and history, classic chapter books like Dahl and Blyton. Harry Potter is our current family obsession, we have the Stephen Fry audiobooks and listen at every opportunity. So, they will be getting a few of these that I just can’t resist any longer.
Then there are stockings! I loved getting stockings as a kid, so don’t want to deny them these. They’all get clementines, walnuts (the same ones I put in last year that they never ate!), chocolate coins. Then it’s difficult to get the balance between small, sweet and cheap, and instantly forgettable and disposable. They’re both obsessed by Lego and key rings, so they’ll get a Lego character letting each. Also a Schleich animal, these are practically indestructible and have given great play value over the years. In the past they’ve also got a new toothbrush and toothpaste, and some underwear they needed, as I like to include something practical. Very keen to hear other people’s suggestions though for good stocking fillers.
Finally each year I buy an Oxfam unwrapped gift for each of them, which gets ceremoniously ignored every time, but it makes me feel better, and maybe one day will sink in with them as well.
I totally understand how each year Christmas becomes bigger and more expensive and more present based, and that is with children who haven’t written great long wish lists. And even with my desperate desire to have less stuff and value our belongings more I still find myself being drawn into it every year. I think there is a balance to be found, just not sure I have managed that yet.