The buying of Christmas presents and the timing of such activities is a much-discussed past-time. Everyone has a smug work colleague called Sandra who bought a load of threadbare, ratty looking gifts last January, wrapped them in six year old wrapping paper from Woolworths and then proceeded to tell every single person she came across for the next 12 months how much of an organised, impressive human this makes her.
Sandra - we all hate* you. Even your kids.
I have several sets of parents but no kids, and I have genuinely lost count of the amount of times people have said, “Well, it’s all for the kids really, isn’t it?” Erm, no Denise, it is NOT just for the kids. If I’m 31, and my brother is 33, and between us we have zero offspring, what is the harm in us both still having our Santa sacks from when we were little? Sure, they’re filled with Egyptian cotton towels and gift sets of Tassimo coffee pods and not Scalectrix (me) and Polly Pockets (my brother) like they used to be, but what harm?
It gets to around early November time, and I start to make a tentative gift list. Once I’ve written down the names of my family members and the lucky few friends who will be blessed with gifts, I sit back in my chair and smile in a smug, Sandra-esque way, thinking I’m going to fucking nail it this year.
The weeks creep by, and we become distracted by shiny twinkly lights and tepid mulled wine. At the back of our minds, the list taunts us, but what of it? There are bloody WEEKS until Christmas. You’ve got this, pal. The December calendar starts to fill up with the usual ‘we must meet up before Christmas!’ events (side note: WHY are people so obsessed with catching up before Christmas? Do we all secretly harbour a fear that Christmas will, one year, be the apocalypse?) and we are swept away on a tide of… erm… tidings. Of the glad variety. For you and for your kin. I could go on. Essentially, we all get a bit giddy and carried away.
Finally, December 1st arrives with the opening bars of Mariah Carey and the ever-present distant jingling of bells (still not sure who’s doing that tbh). And then, the lightbulb moment, as though it’s literally just been invented and you had the genius to think of this first: AMAZON PRIME. Forget that hand-poured candle you were going to get your friend from that cute little farm shop - why spend £20 on something that looks like a kid made it when you can spend £8.95 on something machine-poured and get it delivered next day, free, right to your sofa? And that lovely, chunky-knit Merino wool scarf for Grandma from that yuppie shop on the Northcote Road in Battersea (you know the one I mean) - lookit, there’s one here on Amazon - it’s only £10.99 and it’s genuine Hong Kong wool. From, you presume, one of the many flocks of Hong Kong sheep. What a steal! All of a sudden, Amazon Prime has given you the gift of time. So much time! Weeks and weeks of time until December 25th - freeing you up to joyfully partake in mulled-wine-steeped ridiculous festive events.
We’ve been using Amazon for years, but it feels like this year in particular the reliance on next-day delivery on any old shit you want to order has increased exponentially. And it’s not just the buying of Christmas presents on Amazon that has ruined everything; the easy access to so many affordable products means buying someone a unique gift for twenty quid is almost impossible, because they’ve usually bought it themselves earlier in the year. The fun has gone out of it; that pretty amazing feel-good feeling when you know you’ve nailed a certain gift and you can’t wait for them to open it is harder and harder to come by. I know a lot of people, myself included, who have said “this year, we’re just not bothering with getting each other anything”. What misery! Sure, there are the hard-faced cynics who peddle the ‘Christmas is a commercially-driven, wasteful, sparkly carnival of horrors’ - and they’re partly right - but it’s an event that is largely unavoidable.
So, even though it’s a bit late now (sorry for not writing this earlier, soft drinks don’t sell themselves in the winter), if we were to buy thoughtful gifts from local shops there’s a good chance that we’ll a) enjoy the experience of gift-buying more and get warm fuzzy feels, b) know we’ve put more effort in and therefore enjoy gift-giving more and get warm fuzzy feels and c) spend the national debt of Bolivia on all our gifts and be unable to afford rent, but we’ll be boosting this shitty Tory economy we live in and, you guessed it, we’ll get warm fuzzy feels**. Amen.
**The more I’ve used this phrase the more it sounds like something you’d get at The Two Brewers in Clapham rather than a festive yuletide emotion, but let’s roll with it.
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