A Conscious Christmas
Are we feeling festive? Shops have got their Xmas displays out and are playing the tunes. The German Christmas market has been in Bristol for weeks, serving up the giant churros and mulled wine. These days Xmas is upon us from the 1st of November. We are force fed this idea that we need to spend loads of money to show people that we care about them. We send cards all over the world to family we haven’t seen in years. Undoubtedly Xmas is the most expensive time of the year and definitely one of the most stressful. But before you go rushing out to buy everyone naff tat from the German markets to prove your love to them, why don’t you think of something that will honestly show true love. Average UK households usually spend an extra £500 in November and December with things like parties and meals out and families with children under the age of 18 spend on average more than £2700 on gifts.
Christmas doesn’t need to be all about money and expensive gifts. I know it’s nice to feel spoilt and showered with presents but realistically how many of those presents end up broken, in the bin, in the cupboard for years all because whoever gifted them felt like they HAD to? For years and years now my mother has always asked us for a list, every birthday and every Christmas, we have to give a list of things that we want. I’m not saying broadcast to all your pals that they must buy you a gift from the list. However, creating a list does stop people buying things that you may not want, need or like and subsequently stops them being wasted. As a kid my list consisted of toys and CDs (and always always a horse. I still don’t have one though) But now as an adult my list consist of more grown up boring things like bras (when your boobs are as big as mine you cant find a decent one under £50) and kitchen utensils. Granted I could buy myself a bra and you may think, ‘well the idea of Christmas is to show you know the person and buy them a surprise’. I get that, but you honestly don’t need to buy anything really. And if you do, why not surprise them with a different gift?
This year Tom and I have worked really hard to try and find personalised experiences for the people we want to give gifts to. Things like concert tickets, comedy shows, theatre shows, day trips to places or even just a class. Last year I bought Tom a calligraphy class with the team at Meticulous Ink in bath and he bloody loved it. I feel like these experiences not only show that you know and love the person but it also gives you another chance to spend a bit of quality time together which you may not have done otherwise. The person you give the experience too will remember it for a long time and cherish the memories they make. By doing this you are helping the environment have a little less junk ultimately dumped into it.
Granted not all people have spare cash to have to be buying people gifts. I understand that a box of choccies from Tesco is waaaaay chapter than a concert ticket and that is okay. The issue I have with Christmas is people will literally run themselves into the ground physically, mentally and financially because they feel obliged to spend crazy money that they don’t have on presents. So if you are a little short of money this year why not gift people with your time. Give them the present of your presence and offer to help with with something they may need. Give them a home made voucher for helping hand with the decorating. Offer them a night of free baby sitting so they can go out and enjoy themselves. Share your skills with them. If you can speak a different language, offer them some lessons. If you can play an instrument, offer them some lessons. Offer to house sit. Dog sit. Teach them how to ride a horse. Share your time and your skills. Again it will give you a reason to spend time with them and they will come out of the experience
slightly more enriched.
I know for a fact that I have some incredibly talented friends. Throughout the year they share online their handy work and we are always in awe. If you are one of these talented people then you really are a lucky one for you have the perfect meaningful gift already! This is the perfect opportunity for you to make something for your friends and family that you intend on giving a gift to. For example, if you are a master baker then you could make a huge batch of cupcakes for everyone. Decorate them nicely and personally to the receiver of the cake and TADA you’ve got yourself a gift that you didn’t have to spend silly money on. You could even offer to make the Xmas day desert as your gift to everyone. If you are an artist that often draws people then I’m sure you are used to all your mates asking you to draw them (usually for free) and you have to politely decline or just put it off until they forget. HERE’S YOUR CHANCE. I’m not saying draw up a flawless full detailed portrait of everyone you know, sometimes a little cartoon sketch is enough. Seamstresses, why don’t you find yourselves some super cool material and make a few of your friends some snazzy pillows? Write someone a poem, or a song, doesn’t necessarily need to be about them personally if you’re worried about it being naff just something you have in common. It would be super cute and (most importantly) you’re saving the world from more meaningless gifts.
So some of you may be sat here reading this thinking ‘well I can’t afford a gig, I’m not talented and I haven’t got time to donate to help people do anything’ and honestly folks, that is okay. No one can be perfect all of the time. I’m not saying ‘you must not buy gifts’. All I’m saying is consider what you’re buying and whether they will use/need it or if you are just buying it because you felt compelled to. However if you are going to buy still, then try doing so consciously and ethically. Look for second hand stuff that you know they will be interested in. Raid your local charity shops for cool vintage clothes or if you can’t make it to the shops the world wide web is your friend. I personally buy (and sell) loads of my stuff on Depop these days. It has such a huge amount of people on there, selling all sorts, you’re guaranteed to find something to suit most people. You’ve also got sites like Ebay, Shpock, Gumtree and even Facebook market place. On all of which you can find all sorts ready to be snapped up and given a new lease of life. Remember you can always upcycle things as well. You can repaint furniture and toys to make them look new. If you’re good with a sewing machine you can make changes to clothes to make them more modern.
Just one other thing I want you to think about during this festive period is how much you throw away. How much waste you produce, how much food you don’t eat, what goes into everything that you use for that one day that then gets thrown away or packed up until next year. We all insist on wrapping our gifts, it’s part of the fun right? Did you know that most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable? There are a few alternatives however. Some companies do provide recyclable paper so have a look and double check before you buy. Failing that, chose something else. For years LUSH has been offering gifts wrapped in scarfs/handkerchief which can then be used for other things. If you’re raiding charity shops for your gifts keep and eye out for old pretty scarfs. Or you can do what Tom and I are doing this year and wrapping the few gifts we have in recycled and recyclable brown paper and using home made festive themed lino prints as decoration. The brown paper is way cheaper than your normal wrapping paper and it means we get to add our own little flair to it all. Another one to think about are crackers. I love a cracker as much as the next person but can any of you say you keep hold of al the little plastic toys that come out of them? They are a single use item that holds absolutely no serious purpose. If you want to wear silly hats around the dinner table why not used the left over wrapping paper and fashion each person a hat. I know some people do crackers kind of like wedding favours. So they do a secret Santa type thing and all get each other something small under £1 (usually chocolate or similar) and then it is placed on their plate before dinner. I quite like that idea myself, but then I’d do anything for extra chocolate.
Everybody is just so busy these days that Christmas feels like the only time we have to just totally slow down and enjoy each other’s company. People shouldn’t feel the need to get themselves into debt to be able to prove they love you. Wanting to spend time with you is the ultimate sign of affection. Be that at Christmas or at another time of the year. Please don’t make people feel like their homemade gift is worth less than one they had spent loads of money on. Because realistically more time, love and effort has gone into making you something rather than picking up just another thing off the shelf that is identical to another 100,000 made in China earlier this year.
This year I intend on buying less things. Not because I’m tight (I mean yea I’m pretty skint) but because I want my gifts to be meaningful. As I mentioned above we will be using our own wrapping to make sure it can be recycled and with regards to the gifts, most of the things that I have bought have been from independent and small businesses and artists to try and support my fellow creatives if not they are things I know the person needs/wants.
I hope you all have a gorgeous festive season and get to spend it surrounded by your loved ones. Eat, drink and be present.
Merry Christmas all.