Reducing at Christmas – how can I politely say thanks but no thanks to gifts?
I meant to post this on Tuesday – the start of advent – but after being away, I didn’t have time to do it justice so here it is now.
I haven’t celebrated Christmas for about a decade. Because I’ve got a tiny-small family, Christmas was never a big deal in our house and my participation in it has waned as the years went on until I stopped celebrating it altogether in about 2001-2002. I’m not a Christian so all that side of things is lost on me, I see my family whenever I want to, and I give gifts when I see/make something for someone rather than waiting until a date in December. For the last few years, I’ve worked on Christmas day – a perfect low-traffic day for new introducing designs or features for websites we run. True, part of it is a somewhat cynical reaction to the huge amount of waste and excess at this time of year, but it’s not that I’m particularly bah humbug about it: I just don’t participate in it in the same way many people don’t celebrate, for example, Eid or Hanukkah.
The gifts thing though is still a bit of a problem. In previous years, we’ve had long, difficult arguments with our families over gift giving. Giving is a big part of Christmas for them and as much as we’ve tried to push them that way, giving to charities on our behalf just isn’t the same for them. We end up feeling selfish for not letting them buy stuff for us and ungrateful for not willingly accepting the stuff they inevitable do buy for us. But we spend all year trying very hard not to buy stuff we don’t need, to reduce our consumption and our waste output, and then get a selection of random unneeded things, often novelty items wrapped in one-time-use shiny paper and bows. I realise they’re gifts given out of love but it’s not just that – there is so much pressure to give commercially bought gifts at Christmas – last year, my mum said she felt she had to give me things because she’d bought stuff for my brother and it wouldn’t be fair otherwise. (I didn’t care about “fairness” but it was a big deal to her.)
Has anyone else been in a similar situation on the giving or receiving end? What strategies have you used to deal with it? I always thought Christmas lists to family as an adult were a bit snotty but I guess that would solve the unwanted/unneeded problem. I realise that the whole issue is a bit of a snotty, my-diamond-shoes-are-too-tight one but I’d love to hear your thoughts.
(Photo by Vanessa Fitzgerald)