I have no interest in spending any time, money or energy on Christmas gifts this year.
Usually I really enjoy it. I’ve never understood people who find Christmas stressful. Hosting parties, giving gifts or preparing turkey isn’t work, unless you’re getting paid for it. If it feels like slave labor, stop.
So this year, I’m stopping. The gift thing, that is.
No, I have not turned into a Grinch. I LOVE giving gifts. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes from knowing that I figured out what you wanted – even better if I figured it out before you really knew yourself – and got it for you. If I love you, and I make you happy, that means I won! I mean, don’t we all feel that way?
The problem is, this is less fun at Christmas, because you’re expecting it. And because you’ll give me stuff which I may enjoy, but which I I could easily have done without. Our money could be put to better use in some other way.
Christmas gifts make no economic sense. You spend money on something someone else doesn’t want, and you get something you don’t want in return.
I must have been about ten when I first thought about this. My family had recently moved from one apartment in the US to a much, much smaller one in Norway, and I realized that I owned too much. I wanted space for Christmas. "Everyone just gives each other STUFF, with no regard to what they’re supposed to do with it," I thought.
To be honest though, I wanted some stuff too. I was ten, with no budget of my own. Whenever I wanted something, I would hint and hope until the next gift-recieving opportunity (September or December). Gifts were my main source of income.
These days, I work for a living. And I try to save as much of that money as possible for a future when I potentially won’t be working, because I’ll be at grad school or travelling or just being an unemployed journalist. I don’t want to take my savings and convert them into candles, soap and Christmas ornaments. Or into something I might love, something special because it came from someone special, something so special that I have to take it with me wherever I move, which means I can never just leave, because I love too many THINGS, and they won’t fit into my suitcase.
There are plenty of traditional Christmas songs that in all seriousness claim that gift-receiving (yes, only receiving. I’ve never given Santa anything) is the point of Christmas. Santa Claus is coming to town, for one.
Here’s the original Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt, plus a remix. This Christmas song, about a woman’s wish list including an apartment, a car and a fur coat, is actually not the most materialistic, over-the-top disgusting Christmas song ever. This is. ("On the 8th day of Christmas my baby gave to me: a pair of Chloe shades and diamond belly ring. (…) How I love him for his generosity." Ugh.)
No, out of all the songs about Santa and gift-giving, Santa Baby is my favorite. Because it’s a joke. Flirting with Santa Claus so that he will get you jewellery is so disgusting that it’s funny.
I tend to prefer the songs that suggest partying is the point of Christmas. And I don’t mean eggnog, Jingle Bell Rock and mistle-toe as an excuse for drunken hook-ups. I mean spending time with friends.
This philosophy led my friends to pool our gift-giving budgets and go out to dinner together last year instead of exchanging gifts. We’re doing the same thing this year. I love it.
Because really, all I want for Christmas is you. If you want to give me something, give me memories. I can take them with me even if I want to travel with just a carry-on. Take me out to dinner. Or sit down on a couch with me, (possibly open a bottle of wine) and give your full attention to our conversation for a few hours. Or invite me over and introduce me to your favorite movie.
Or give me a list of your favorite books and enough Amazon dollars to choose one of them for my Kindle.
Or give me money. I will think of you gratefully when your contribution becomes 5% of my plane ticket to Cape Town, or half of a book I want to read. Or a tiny little fraction of tuition at grad school. And because I’m more relaxed and less poor, when we’re out windowshopping and you look at some item for longer than necessary, I will get it for you. And I will feel like I won.