Christmas is rolling round once more. We’ve already sent our letters to Santa. In my letter I wrote: please Santa, under any circumstances do not send me any presents. My best present would be continuing to keep my house as uncluttered as possible, only hanging on to things I really like or really need.
There are few things in my life that I would really need right now in addition to the ones I already have. (With the possible exception of an immersion blender, but I kind of resent asking Santa for that.) There are some things that I would really want, but even those things I’d rather pick myself, or then they’re something that isn’t really suitable for a present, or things I know would be difficult to find.
My Mom once told me that when she was a kid during the fifties, Christmas presents usually consisted of necessary small items, such as a comb, which would be received with gratitude since people at that time really needed those things. But times have changed. Most people in the West don’t really need anything these days; on the contrary they have too much.
Most people, upon receiving a comb, would think to themselves: “Oh great, now I’ve got five combs” or “Oh great, does my hair look that bad?” They’d smile and say thank you, of course, but deep down inside they’d be regretting the sight of that comb. The more conscientious ones would mourn the trees that had to be felled to make this totally unnecessary article or calculate how many weeks or months before being able to recycle it without guilt.
My kids are very particular about their gifts too, and for good reason. Our little house is already bulging with toys, and they don’t play with most of them as it is. They’ve written Santa asking for a few, seriously considered articles that would somehow add to their toy arsenal, and I’ve already discussed sending other toys to a charity shop with them to make room for these new ones.
If they don’t get the gifts they’ve asked for, they’ll be unhappy since they really put thought into which ones to ask and I told them they could only wish for a few toys. Most other things are going to be surplus both in their minds and on our shelves.
Christmas is about giving, but let’s not forget that for adults who already have enough, maybe the best present would be time spent together, a nice meal they don’t have to cook, or going somewhere fun together. And if you do want to get a present, I think there’s no shame in asking what the other person might want first, and respecting their wishes if they say they really don’t need or want anything.
So forget about that surprise present unless…
- Unless you know for a fact that the recipient wishes it
- Unless it’s edible (and the recipient or at least someone in his family eats it)
- Unless it’s drinkable (ditto)
- Unless it’s a flower (and the recipient is female or a male with known love for flowers)
- Unless it’s something you can all enjoy together and you can take away with you if the recipient doesn’t need or want it (such as a board game)
- Unless it is a small surprise present for a child, since kids do love to get surprises and small ones are okay since they take up little room
- Unless it is something exquisite and precious (Just to be clear: You can give me as many diamonds or gifts abroad as you like)
- Unless it is a service, such as a massage or a tickets to a concert 0r the movies
Well, that’s just my take. I’m sure there are loads of people who adore surprise presents or who are even so good at buying them that the recipient is always pleasantly surprised. But maybe in these times of plenty, we should start giving more serious consideration to how many gifts are actually even desirable. After all, things don’t create Christmas spirit. People do.