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Material or immaterial Christmas presents?

Updated 17/12/2019

Lately, I have been discussing a lot with my friends and colleagues, reading from media, listening from podcasts etc. about Christmas presents, over-consumption and better alternatives. Christmas may bring a lot of pressure and stress, which I think would be better to try to avoid and instead try to enjoy the holidays. Easier said than done maybe. Hopefully, you are already done with Christmas preparations but here are some things that I think are good to consider when buying Christmas presents, and tips to hopefully avoid the last minute “let’s just buy something” decisions.

I have become, or maybe I have always been quite precise of things I have and I want to own, lately even more than before. I do not want any extra, useless stuff to my home, things I do not need or want. This makes it maybe harder to buy a present for me. Like my sister says, I show if I do not like something I get. But I think it is better to kindly tell if you don’t like or you don’t have a use for the thing you got. Then you maybe change it to the right colour/model/something else that you need and will use, instead of being quiet and forgetting the present in the corner of the closet. Unused presents are a waste of present giver’s money, natural resources and place in your closet.

There has been a lot of discussion in the media about more sustainable and immaterial Christmas presents. I think an immaterial present is a great idea if you are not sure what the other one wants/needs. In my family, we have been asking each other’s wishes. Why not write to Santa even when you are an adult? Maybe it is a bit boring to “know” what you may get, but on the other hand, I would be much more excited and happy about the present that I wished for than of something that I do not have a use for. In Sweden the Christmas present of the year, årets julklapp 2018 is a recycled piece of clothing. This year the Christmas present of the year differs a lot of the previous ones, which have mainly been electronics. You can see the list here (in Swedish). A recycled piece of clothing does not need to mean shopping only at flea markets but maybe paying more attention to what the garment is made of and preferring the clothes made of recycled materials. Or, maybe finally to give that one dress that you are not wearing that much anymore to your sister who has been desiring it a long time.

About the immaterial Christmas presents. That can be a dinner, homemade brunch, movie night, a course to learn something new. The best thing about these kinds of presents is that you can spend quality time with the one getting the presents by enjoying of the present together. An immaterial present can be a massage, a treatment, Netflix/Spotify/you name it for a certain time etc. That can also be cleaning help: “I will wash your windows in the spring”, “I will come and do vacuum cleaning once a month”. I think that, for example, older or busy people would appreciate this kind of present a lot more than a new vase they already have more than enough. For parents with small children, you can give a night out by promising to look after the kids. Children you can take to skiing or to movies, to give an experience rather than a toy. I’m sure children will remember the experience for a long time even though a flat gift card may feel boring on Christmas eve. A gift card is a good option also for a material present if you are not sure about size or style. Just make sure that a gift card is to a shop the one getting it likes.

The other topic I have been discussing, reading and listening is if to give presents at all and if yes, how much. Do kids need a huge mountain of presents? What about adults? Would time with each other, good food and relaxing be enough. I think everyone can do as they want. I would, however, avoid those unnecessary “only because I just needed to buy something” presents. I like giving Christmas presents and yes, let’s admit it, I like to get those as well. In my family, we are giving Christmas presents for each other. Nothing huge nor several gifts but little something. We are not giving birthday presents that much anymore, so I think it is nice to gather together at Christmas and find out what we have got for each other. That is our tradition. But like I already mentioned earlier, we ask wishes beforehand to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Instead of getting something for each, Secret Santa can be fun. This is quite common play in little Christmas parties. I think Secret Santa is a good idea, but I would like to know beforehand to whom I’m getting a present to make it more personal. In the game, everyone brings a present, then the presents will be mixed and shared among participants the way that nobody gets their own present back. There is always a risk to get something you do not like. But on the other hand, for example, homemade jam, other eatable things, self-made gift cards I talked earlier, other immaterial things that can be used quickly, like candles, would be great for this game.

Furthermore, figuring out new traditions and focusing more on time spent together have taken over the presents in some families. Like last year, we decided with my boyfriend to minimize the stress, and instead of buying each other presents, excluding maybe something small, we booked a spa day that we are gonna enjoy after the holidays. Something from us to us.

I hope you all are going to have a great Christmas with your loved ones or by yourself, nevertheless, if you are waiting for the Santa for visit or just relaxing, eating and watching Christmas movies in a good company or whatever you like to do.