For the past two years, as I've become more eco-friendly, anti-consumerist and generally Wombly, I have also become increasingly uncomfortable with Christmas shopping.
The physical act of Christmas shopping is bad enough: the crowds of people pushing and shoving, the dry hot air being pumped out through the air con systems, the queues of people with overspilling baskets in Boots and M&S, the stressed-out parents screaming at their kids to stop nagging and running up and down the aisles. (Gosh, I'm becoming a miserable old trout. I told you my barrenness was making be bitter.)
But the thing that really got to me last year was the wastefulness of it all. I trudged around the shops, getting hotter and crosser, loaded down with too much stuff to carry, spending more and more money on knick knacks to pad out people's bags of presents. I got home and unpacked it all, buried under a mountain of plastic wrapping and carrier bags, only to wrap it all back up again in Christmas paper that would just get ripped off and discarded a few days later. I just found it all a bit, well, depressing.
Don't get me wrong, I love the sparkliness of Christmas - getting together with family and friends, everyone in a caring, sharing sort of mood. But why does it have to involve so much... crap.
I came across the Adbusters site for Buy Nothing Christmas recently. Have a look, it's quite interesting.
Since thinking of all this, I've started to try to cut down on buying so much stuff. Some friends got married recently. They had a wedding list (don't get me started on those), but they've been living together for years, earn lots of money and have a fully-equipped and beautiful house. I don't think they really needed those designer napkin rings or silver gravy boat, so I bought them something from Oxfam Unwrapped. She's really into gardening, so I 'bought' them an allotment for someone in Africa. I was a bit worried that they'd think I was just a horrible old meanie, but they seemed thrilled with their 'non-gift'.
For a friend's birthday a few weeks ago, I baked a box of chocolate brownies. I bought my mother an Indian head massage for her birthday. I treated my dad to a night out at a comedy club. When we were very poor, I made Mr Meep a book of 'vouchers' for his birthday, which he could cash in throughout the year. It had things like 'Breakfast in bed', 'Get out of doing the dishes', 'Home-cooked three course meal of your choice', 'Back massage'. For our wedding anniversary, I promised him a home-made cake every month for a year.
I think that Buy Nothing Christmas is the way forward in the Meep household for 2005 (although Mr Meep needs a tad more convincing). I'm not a complete Scrooge - people will get things, but they'll get things that they can actually use or enjoy. Not things that they'll end up putting in a cupboard or giving to the charity shop in a few months' time.
So they get something they'll (hopefully) like, I don't have to join the hoardes of Christmas shoppers, the big high street stores get a little less rich and Mother Earth breathes a sigh of relief as a less pointless stuff and packaging gets produced. Everyone's a winner.
Here are some of my ideas. I'll write them down while I'm feeling inspired or I'll forget and end up with Gillette gift packs from Boots all round.
- Theatre tickets
Christmas cakes (using my new-found sugarcraft skills)
A painting or drawing
A framed photograph
Cases of wine/nice beers
Plant a tree
Adopt an animal
Bah. And indeed, humbug.