So those of you expecting an anti-commercialist, sanctimonious moan about not buying things might be surprised when I exhort you to spend these 352 days thinking about gifts for people.
Yep, you read me correctly.
Of course, naturally, I don’t mean start buying animatronic singing Christmas elves and wrapping them in glittery paper. But I’m serious about the gifts.
This particular train of thought comes to you courtesy of the ever cheerful Giorgio Monbiroder, who you may remember from ‘Together in Electric Dreams’, in a column in which he details the impact of our rampant consumerism on the planet. It’s cheerless but deeply necessary reading. Read it now and come back, I’ll wait.
George suggests that we eschew giving commercial gifts entirely and make cakes, write poems, tell jokes and give hugs for Christmas instead and, whilst I understand the sentiment, there’s also a part of me that thinks that’s perhaps not going to work for everyone. I for one am not a great baker of cakes, if I write someone a poem it’s probably going to be so depressing that they’ll hang themselves on Boxing Day, my jokes are mostly (as regular readers will attest) stupid, offensive or both and I’m currently wearing a beard that makes me look like a paroled killer so going in for the festive hug is just going to give people the Christmas willies 1.
So maybe not. And I don’t want to be that git that buys the family a card saying that they’ve bought a goat for a village in Niger or a cobra for a nursery in Burkina Faso. And not just because goats are difficult to wrap.
There are plenty of Ned-Flanders style suggestions about giving people vouchers for hugs, favours, foot rubs or whatever, too, but I’m going to call bullshit on that. Doing a good deed should be special for Christmas? A favour is something you do to help – any time of year. You help someone put up a picture or wash the car or whatever because you can. Because it’s how we get along. You don’t need a voucher to give someone a hug- why? Because you’re not a dick.
There’s nothing wrong with giving gifts at any time of the year. There are lots of things that you can buy from real shops that don’t cost the Earth (yeah, I’m talking financial and ecological cost there…) There are plenty of things that people will get through during a year that you can buy them a slightly nicer version of. Whiskey, in my case.
Good wine, coffee, preserves, sauces, crackers… come on, people. Books don’t cost the Earth and there’s no finer gift than a well chosen book. Music that you’ve chosen really carefully; you could even support an emerging, independent artist (Do consider buying your relatives something by one of my musical friends…). Make jam, sloe gin, fudge, a notebook.
There are loads of things that you can buy to support local producers, ethical trade. If you want to go big ticket for someone, there’s even an ethical smartphone.
You’ve got 352 shopping days until Christmas. If you can’t resist that urge to fill someone’s stocking in 2017 then you’ve got 352 days to search online, in charity shops, ethical producers. To learn to make really good chutney. To take a woodworking course so that you can make someone a custom office bookshelf.
You’ve got 352 days to keep giving small, thoughtful gifts to the people that you love. To keep doing nice things for friends and strangers alike.
Because not being quite as miserable as George Monbiot doesn’t have to mean you’re a dick.
1. Christmas willies make a great gift but only for consenting adults