Christmas presents are such a difficult subject. I feel very lucky that my partner and I pretty much never started giving each other presents at Christmas. If I see something he’ll like, I either buy it for him and give it to him straight away, or I mention it to him to see if he genuinely would like it. Easy-peasy. Almost no consumerism, and no unnecessary or unwanted ‘stuff’. I do actually have a small present for him this year, but only by accident. It’s just a small thing that he can’t actually use until next year, so there’s no harm in boxing it up for Christmas day as a little treat!
The only people I really exchange gifts with are my parents. I’ve tried telling them I don’t want anything, but that means that I tend to get a large quantity of ‘little things’, many of which are very lovely, but some of which I inevitably don’t use or am unlikely to want, and often all of which I don’t actually need. I’ve tried asking for money (towards specific things), but it doesn’t always work very well, and I feel awkward. Particularly if I have to remind the person they said they’d give me some cash! Ack, no thanks 🙂
I love receiving the care and thought that the gifts represent – particularly as I know that my parents will have spent time thinking about me, and considering things, and I know that sometimes they really enjoy picking out things for me. But I am trying to reduce consumerism by/for me, so I don’t really enjoy receiving things I don’t really need that much.
So as a response, I’ve shifted back towards asking for specific things. Usually these are things I’ve thought about getting, and decided to get. Things that are either ‘needs’ or only just on the side of ‘luxury’ – not so much that I will feel guilty. There’s always the chance I won’t get exactly what I want as a gift, but I think it works out well overall.
In exchange, I make a lot of effort to ask for things my parents actually want. I get the impression that they also save up things to ask me for! I suspect I am not the best at buying presents, particularly for my mother – my idea of what is useful, pretty or cool does not align very well with hers! So I am very keen for them to tell me what they want. I even force myself to buy what they ask for, even when I find something similar but better (in my mind!) or I think it’s a bit useless. That’s part of the gift, right? It’s not what I want to buy, but what they want to receive.
Ultimately, I do hope one day we can stop exchanging substantial Christmas gifts. A favorite book, or piece of music, or special box of chocolates would be more than enough. Just a little thing to show we’re thinking of each other, but not the larger stack. I have to admit, I just don’t like spending the money, either, not as part of the orgy of consumerism that is Christmas, and particularly not when I suspect stuff will just be thrown away after a few months. But then we’re coming right up against a much bigger problem – what to do when people you care about and are close to have views on consumerism that are so far away from your own? That’s a thorny problem that I am definitely not ready to think about during Christmas!
Exchanging gifts the way you want to comes down to communication, and being brave, and ultimately, to compromise. If people want to give, you can’t stop them, but you can guide them. You can talk about why you want something, about why you don’t want other things. And you can be patient. I figure sooner or later, me and my parents will get there 🙂