15 Dec 2010

Present Perfect (Part 1)

Christmas is upon us, and with it comes the [delete as appropriate] heartfelt/ meaningful/ well-meaning/ obligatory/ disinterested/ pointless present-buying (and present-receiving) saga. Bah humbug, Christmas seems an excuse for over-indulgence, with entertaining and all the trimmings. In this article I will endeavour to make sense of it all and share some hints and tips to those of us who are either stuck, uninspired or deflated by the prospect, while taking a leaf out of my book for my own benefit.

Thing is, I have never been the type to over-indulge in the financial excesses of Christmas, despite the fact that the media and peer pressure coerce us strongly into expenditure, at the expense of common sense. I am no tight-fisted moron, in fact I prefer to bestow loved ones with little attentions throughout the year rather than 'focus' them around Christmas. Those thoughtful little attentions might consist of a culinary treat (a trip down a lovely tea-room or reputed gastropub), or a heartfelt spur-of-the-moment purchase that is meaningful/ useful to the recipient, rather than some sort of automated reflex action that turns me into a robot sucked into the shopping parades for that year-on-year commercial Yule splurge.

In our haste for performance, let's not lose out the fact that being amongst family is what should matter most on Christmas Day, maybe open our hearts and show some charity and care towards a relative, friend, or total stranger in need as a welcome seasonal altruistic gesture. I am no puritan or religious freak whatsoever and not exactly one you would call a church-goer, but I believe that Christmas should be treated with more respect, modesty, simplicity and restraint than it is right now.

In an ideal world, we should endeavour to rediscover its true meaning as the religious day it once revolved around, and just stop competing with each other in our materialistic preoccupations through the presents saga, stop giving in so easily to the consumer society's expectations of Xmas, of the correlation between 'care' and 'presents', i.e. translating how much you care about somebody through presents.

Let us demonstrate our care in different ways that do not solely revolve around 25th December (and/ or birthdays, for that matter). What if we just cared every day instead? Maybe even challenge ourselves into creating a personal(ised) Christmas, by making something from scratch: Xmas cards, pudding, cranberry sauce, festive decorations, candles for giving, etc. Let's make it an experiential Christmas. In the meantime hang on to that 'experiential' adjective because we'll come back to it later.

Another side-effect to this 'present at all costs' frenzy is that the probability of you and I ending up with a collection of nasty knick-knacks, multiplication of body lotions/ shower gels/ foot scrubs/ festive socks/ tealight holders, is sadly not nigh, it is high. I am not questioning the act of giving a present but - if we are to buy a present - could we not just put a bit more thought, a bit more effort, a bit more personality and relevance into it? And why not?

I don't want to sound like I am throwing out the baby and the bath water, but like with some of those presents we wish we had never got, let's make sure this doesn't bite us back when we are out there making our own purchasing decisions... (to be continued)


  1. About 5 years ago it seemed that our family Christmas tree was going to be swallowed up by the pile of gifts surrounding it. It wasn't charming or festive, it was obscene. There was an added issue of a big income disparity between family members, so that some were buying lavish gifts, and the poorer folks felt that whatever they gave would somehow be inadequate. Since then, we have stopped giving any gifts at all for Christmas, and it has resulted in a much more relaxed and enjoyable holiday.

  2. Very nice post! Especially noted, "..in fact I prefer to bestow loved ones with little attentions throughout the year rather than 'focus' them around Christmas."

    And that's what life is all about, eh? Not scheduling feelings, but feeling and expression when they naturally occur.

  3. Thanks everyone for kindly stopping by. From your interesting comments, we all agree that Christmas should be about the heart rather than the cash!

    I may not be the retail industry's sweetheart for saying this, but it looks like Christmas has sadly turned into some commercial hypocrisy, at the expense of its true values. We need to tone down the glitz a notch, scale down the spending and rediscover the little pleasures that Christmas brings. And that's the net worth.