Show you care - give the perfect gift?
Christmas, I am told, is on its way. It is a time to be with family, to enjoy each other's company, especially when there is a distance between you. It is often one of the few times where all of you will sit down together for a meal or for an afternoon, to simply enjoy being together, reminisce and remember people who are not there. Whether you are religious or not, Christmas is a time to think about the year past and the year to come (much more so than New Year for me) and to reflect upon your own life and those who you love.
So why is it that it has also become such a nightmare for a lot of us? It is usually sometime during the next couple of months that various family members will begin to ask me: 'what would you like for Christmas?'. I usually answer, without really giving any thought to the question, 'I don't know'. This is because I really don't like to be asked this question, it seems to represent all that is wrong with the whole gifting business of Christmas. The best gift anyone can ever give you is something from the heart, even when it cost nothing. To receive something you weren't expecting, or something that has been made for you, with you in mind is worth more to me that any amount of expensive gifts. I am quite a simple man and as such there is nothing I really want for. But a couple of years ago when my 9 year old (at the time) nephew bought me a book from a library sale for 10p because it was a subject matter that he knew would interest me, it meant so much that I smile every time I see it. In this way, I try hard with the adults to find or make things that will make them smile, or surprise them. Sometimes I get it right, other times it falls flat, depending on the person. But the one thing that I cannot buy into is how much something is worth in monetary terms. To be smiled at on the surface but know that beneath the surface someone is totting up how much you spent on them and whether or not they spent more than you. When did Christmas turn into that?
My other bugbear with Christmas is children's attitudes. Don't get me wrong, I don't blame them for wanting stuff, because for the most part it is the way they have been taught either by well-meaning or guilt ridden parents, or TV and advertising hand in hand with spoilt school friends. Yes, Christmas is a time for children to be excited, to enjoy some of the magic and I remember my own excitement at what gifts I would receive. The difference between then and now is quantity, both quantity of gifts and quantity of money spent. I would perhaps get one main present and 3 or 4 little things and I was wowed by all that. Perhaps my granny would give me a record, or a book and that would be that. I would be happy with the excitement of it all. Now the children I know are getting hundreds of pounds worth of presents and if that weren't bad enough, not seeming to appreciate what they have been given. Parents are under an enormous amount of pressure, I get that, but I think it is a very short sighted way of being and they are doing their children no favours by allowing them to think they can have so much just by having a tantrum if they don't get it. Time and time again I have seen the children in my extended family receive 5 video games each at £40 a time and yet be in a bad mood because they didn't get the one they wanted. I know that I am considered a Scrooge with them because from me they receive a book or a book token in general, and it mostly goes un-thanked. Rarely a Christmas day goes by without some pointless mood swing or tears over not getting something.
So is there going to be a time when it swings back to the real meaning of Christmas? I imagine a lot of the people reading this have a very good attitude towards it, being a frugal minded bunch, but you all must have observed what I am talking about in someone's household? Is it simply because people work more and so give their children less time, so buying them stuff is to make up for it? I don't really believe this to be an excuse, because there are many hard working parents out there who are not buying into it. Or is it simply the same old media fuelled guff, where we are shown how we should be spending Christmas, like celebrities do, buying lavish gifts, having a new tree decorated with a new style every year, theming the table with brand new John Lewis Christmas table decorations in purple and silver this year - whatever was wrong with going out to collect fir cones, a bit of silver spray and imagination.
So here's to a simple, frugal minded and meaningful Christmas with no debts and no tantrums.
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