The conversations have started, the discussions are underway. It’s the time of year where we tentatively start probing our way through the entanglements, mindful of the fragile egos, the touchy feelings and the obligations to extended family.
It’s time for us to worry about debt, fret over etiquette and wear ourselves to the edge of exhaustion in ensuring perfection.
Yes, it’s Christmas.
Don’t misunderstand me, I love Christmas. Well, I love the idea of what Christmas should be, the ideal that I hold as an image in my mind and strive to achieve every year.
However Christmas comes with bundles of stress, so I decided I would start to document each one as it occurred!
Part 1 – Present Shopping
I enjoy shopping for gifts for my family and friends. In theory. The idea is to choose a thoughtful present that will bring them some pleasure.
In reality the adult family that surround me don’t really *need* presents. They have disposable incomes and I have a budget limit. If there was something in the £20 and under category that they really wanted, well they would just buy it for themselves. And so every year I have the same dilemma.
I want to buy my parents gifts. After all they brought me up and lavished care and love on me. I like to show them that I appreciate all they did. I want to think of something special. However to be honest, I cannot afford my mother’s taste and my father is happy with a book. That he has chosen.
My middle brother has completely different taste to me. Last year I bought him a fun new wallet covered in superhero comic strips. He made it clear he found it childish and would never use it. On Boxing Day I recovered the wallet and gave it to Mr G, who does have a sense of humour like mine and has used it ever since.
My elder brother is an unknown quantity. I have tried fun presents, childish gifts, games, jokes and gadgets. Each time he thanks me and places it in a pile that I know will go right to the back of a drawer. Well, apart from the year that he commented that I had not even got him a present. I replied that I had in fact bought him a ‘Bop it‘ game to which he responded “Oh yes, that was my best present that year”. And he meant it. The lesson here being that he actually takes no notice of anything I get him anyway!
As for the in-laws! The parent-in-laws say every year not to waste our money, but Mr G feels he should get some token present and ends up spending more in a rush than I would have given time to think it over. My sister-in-law loves presents, but only ones she has chosen.
Which raises another point. The gift list. I have annual discussions with friends who agree that we don’t like being given a list of things to buy for each person. Where is the thought in that? When my brother produces an email detailing which CD’s he would like and who should buy them, how is that personal? On the other hand, if I deviate from the list I know my money will have been spent on a little bit more drawer filler.
And then there is the etiquette of friends. Last year Kid 1 was bought a present by a school friend, so we should get one back. But if we don’t see them over the festive period, should we bother? The neighbours have invited us for drinks, do we have to take presents for their kids, or just wine for them? I know my mother’s elderly friend gives her something for my kids, do I have to buy for her grandchildren? I have already agreed with some close friends that ‘I won’t buy for yours if you don’t buy for mine’ in the spirit of mutual money saving!
So I wonder, with all this stress – are Christmas presents really for family children only? Should we adults agree that actually we don’t need gifts from each other. When completing the shopping list becomes more of a of a chore than a pleasure, maybe it is time to stop spending.