Think about it for just a second. What would it feel like if you decided to not gift material items, or anything at all this Christmas?
I want you to consider the gifts you have purchased for people over the years. Do you feel obligated to buy everyone in your immediate family a present because it's expected of you? We have been taught from a young age that gift-giving is traditional. It is something that we do to show other loved ones we care on numerous occasions. We feel obligated to show our love through material things.
When it's your birthday, do you regularly get asked, "what did they buy you?"
Now think about the best things about Christmas. I recently had this conversation with a work colleague, which is what planted the idea for this post in my head. We both agreed that we loved the crisp after dinner walks, the chance to sit around with loved ones and play board games, the food.
We also both agreed that we have received some incredibly thoughtful gifts ourselves for Christmas. However we have additionally been guilty of gifting, and being gifted, last minute indulgence purchases because we simply ran out of ideas or time. Neither of us tended to remember the gifts over the years, but we remembered the funny stories, the snowball fights and in my husbands' case, the smell of cinnamon.
We also remembered the food, but agreed that a day spent in the kitchen for a half an hour meal is almost madness if you don't enjoy cooking. Personally I am happy to make packet stuffing, use pre-made pastry and prep most things the day before if it means I get to spend the hours making memories instead.
But it's not the presents that stick in my mind. Do they in yours?
So what does minimalist gift giving look like?
It's buying with a purpose in mind. Being mindful about our spending. Would my friend enjoy this gift after a week? Would it be something they would use time and time again? Is it actually thoughtful?
Too often we are taken in by the three for two sales, and glitzy gift wrapping, and forget why we are actually giving. Gift giving should be a way to complement our friendship and love. If we really feel like we need to give something, it should be a way to share an experience or memory with a loved one, rather than a way to make up for not sharing time with each other over the year.
So give me some examples of minimalist gift giving?
- Tickets to share an event with the recipient of your gift. It might be cinema tickets, tickets to see the ballet or to see your favourite band. The memories from this will last much longer than a premium bath set.
- Charitable donations. Find a cause close to their hearts and donate on their behalf.
- Throw a dinner party or event in their honor. It was recently my mother-in-laws' 50th. Instead of a typical gift, we threw her a surprise 1980's silent disco. I hope she will treasure the memories as long as we will!
- Cook them their favourite meal. This way, you can spend time with them catching up, as well as treating them for an evening.
- A subscription to a national park, membership to a society or sports club. This way, they can enjoy the gift again and again.
- For smaller gifts, anything you can eat or drink is great. It might be more material, but if you buy their favourite wine, chocolate or locally brewed beer, it will go a long way.
- A Christmas adventure. Go walking in wintry woodlands, collect pinecones and explore, then treat them to a pumpkin spiced coffee and cake whilst you catch up. Round it all off with a delicious meal in front of an open pub fire.
- A book you've researched and will know they will enjoy.
I appreciate for most people, gift-giving is enjoyable and a main focus for the Christmas season. However don't be the person who buys and gifts material items because they feel they have to. Giving your other half the most expensive pair of earrings or TV won't mean a thing if there's no love behind it.
Last year I told my husband I didn't want a gift for Christmas. It was surprising how many people tried to convince him this was a trap and he should get me something anyway to keep me happy.
The fact that this was the first response from a bunch of people highlighted that gift-gifting has become so ingrained in our society, we can't imagine a Christmas without it.
But when December 25th rolled around and I didn't receive a thing and instead we donated money we would have spent on wrapping, postage and cards to Alzheimer's Society, I couldn't have been happier. I was surrounded by family, my cats and friends and I had donated to a cause close to my heart.
So this year if you are thinking of buying gifts this year, do it for the right reasons.