As a Pagan I don’t technically celebrate ‘Christmas’, but it’s a cultural festival and therefore part of the collective holidays for me.
This year I’ve seen so many blog posts, articles, and social media memes urging people to cancel Christmas. “Stop spending money you don’t have on tat you don’t need.”
There’s a lot of wisdom in this.
We don’t need to spend so much money on things our friends and family haven’t asked for. So many of the presents we buy we put little thought into. Aunts and uncles, neighbours, work colleagues, they all buy for us and we feel we should reciprocate. From October onwards the shops are full of ‘that will do’ gifts. My husband openly admits his present buying consists of purchasing lots of stuff on one afternoon and then apportioning it out later.
I’ve never enjoyed this kind of Christmas.
That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy presents and gift giving and celebrating with family.
We live in a climate emergency. There’s no room for plastic boxes which contain the same bars of chocolate you could buy for a third of the price. We don’t need the box. It’s ok to just buy the chocolate.
I don’t need you to buy me things because I bought presents for you.
Spending £10 on someone because you know they’re going to spend £10 on you and both of you ending up with something you didn’t want and couldn’t afford is madness.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t do things another way.
By cancelling Christmas, you do save yourself money. But what of your aunts and neighbours?
I have a huge family and social circle. I can’t possibly buy for everyone I love. And yet I can pour a little love their way.
Many people simply don’t have tens of people to buy for. Now I’m in my forties it feels like my family just keeps getting bigger.
When I reach my sixties and seventies the likelihood is my family and social circles will start to retract. My neighbour who brings me biscuits I don’t eat maybe doesn’t have that many people to buy for. By saying “I’m not doing presents this year, please don’t buy me anything” I might be severely reducing her ability to socialise and be part of a community.
My love language is gifts. When you say you don’t want to exchange presents this year you reduce my ability to give and receive love.
I don’t want you to spend money because you feel obliged. I want you to show me love by making an effort with your thoughts and actions.
This year for my birthday, my brother harvested some poppy seeds from his garden for me to plant in mine. It filled me with joy.
He remembered my recently found love for gardening and took time to choose and collect a present for me.
It cost nothing.
It meant the world.
Gifts don’t need to cost money or the planet’s resources
I have a houseful of personal items I treasure.
The things I love most have been given to me by other people. They’re often things they’ve enjoyed and used and passed onto me.
Giving a favourite book, or a much loved piece of jewellery you already own, or even a suit jacket that no longer fits, is a statement of love.
You don’t need to spend money.
Yet, maybe reducing your spend completely isn’t the best idea either.
Many small traders make the majority of their income during the last quarter of the year.
It’s been an incredibly difficult year for them, just as it has for every other business.
To stop buying completely means taking away this independent income.
I want my local traders and talented craftspeople to continue trading once the pandemic is over and my finances are buoyant again.
I may not be able to buy much this year, but the money I can spare I’ll try to put the way of individuals I know and love.
That way, instead of one gift, I’m giving two.
Boycotting physical gifts doesn’t necessarily mean not spreading wealth
Musicians and writers have also seen their work reduce this year. Instead of buying something which uses natural resources, why not commission a poem or a song? Give as much information as you can about your loved on and watch someone create something beautiful in their name.
Secret Santa isn’t only for work colleagues. Family and friendship groups can also benefit from this, especially if you’re thinking you might not see each other this year. It’s far easier to all post one present than several each.
You can also set up joint gifts, gather several people and put your money together to buy one big thing instead of several smaller.
The most fun present swapping I’ve had has been when the gift buying has parameters. Games such as “must be bought from a charity shop” or “can only cost £1” force you to be way more inventive.
My favourite present challenge is always seeing what you can gift without spending any money. There are a lot of freebies in our modern life, why not try only gifting these or making presents using things you got for free.
Decorations, food, and entertainment can also be done on a budget
We spend a lot on making things just right. Do you need a pine tree? Or can you collect some twigs and bundle them up into a decorative piece and spray paint it an interesting colour?
How much do you really need to spend on food, especially if you won’t be meeting in large numbers this year?
It’s ok to do things on the cheap.
I promise you, when you look back, you’ll remember the extra effort as one of your favourite holiday celebrations.