The weeks preceding Christmas are bloody awful. I hate going into Cambridge and finding myself attacked by people with a dozen shopping bags in each hand, looking haggard and miles from the supposed Christmas spirit we're meant to be in. My favourite bit about shopping centres is usually people-watching; everyone is so self-absorbed when shopping, it's comedy to try to understand the thought process that leads to buying those god awful mustard yellow boots or that garish tie. ;)
But this year, I'm amazed how many times I've heard "But what do you buy for someone who's already pretty much got everything?" There are the obvious options; a new jumper, the latest video game, a scarf... or surfing Amazon to find some stocking fillers (at the expense of some exhausted Amazon elves)
So what about the alternatives to spending on tat that will disappear into the cupboard as soon as the holidays are over?
Give them something handmade or unique
Make it yourself if you're crafty or skilled in something they aren't. If you aren't feeling up to the challenge, buy something that's been handmade.
- Make a batch of Christmas cookies, wrap them in parchment paper and a nice ribbon
- Make homemade liqueurs (for next year!) and bottle them nicely with a handmade label
- Create a photo album or a book with Lulu or your own photo editing software
- Get handmade jewellery: Unique pieces are so much more interesting! (More on this one later, but I love Ostara for handmade stuff) You'll also be supporting small businesses rather than line the pockets of multinationals!
- Give the gift of time: Make vouchers good for a day out together, a Sunday lunch or a night at the movies. It'll remind you both how important it is to spend time together over the course of the year
Give to charity instead
Some may say it's a cliché suggestion and unoriginal of me, but it's a perfectly valid one. I asked fellow Twitterers what charities they supported and I received some very powerful answers.
- Niall Harbison, Irish foodie, put together a charity campaign Twitter-style by donating the proceeds of the auction of a brand new Nokia E63 to Crumlin Children's Hospital. See Niall's post to take part by donating €5.
- Bango, who provide mobile analytics & billing services, put together a Christmas campaign called "All I want for Xmas!" where you contribute content (jokes, images, mobile games) and any money made from the content will be doubled and donated to Save The Children.
- @reyes supports The Multiple Sclerosis Charity and Every Child who are committed to protecting the rights of vulnerable children and are always looking for our help
- Teemu told the story of a friend who committed suicide last week, leading me to seek more information on SupportLine who provide emotional support for people of all ages.
- If you can't contribute financially, give time. Speak to your local charities to find out how you can help, as Dale (@dalelane) will be doing with Crisis Open Christmas, who open their doors to the homeless over the holiday season to ensure everyone can have a warm meal and some company.
So tell me, this year, would you rather spend less and take the time to make something personal as a gift? Or prefer to treat them to a luscious gift even though it may be breaking the bank a little bit more than you'd hoped because it's that one time of the year?
I don't think either answer is wrong, but in my eyes, there has to be a balance: If you've had a nice Christmas bonus and you're feeling generous, then it's fun to get friends and family a few goodies they may not otherwise treat themselves to, there's no denying that. But meaningful handmade gifts can be more heartwarming and personal than anything bought from a store shelf.