I really enjoy thinking of presents for other people on Christmas, as I enjoy making them. I am not a big fan of pressure and obligations, though. So I tried to list the strategies that have made Christmas work for me since a few years. Without stress and with a lot of joy and with a much clearer conscience.
First of all...
- Make a list of people you feel you want to give presents to.
- Ask yourself how many of these people you genuinely want to make happy and where it is other factors like guilt or duty that make you want to give them something.
For the people you only feel obliged, but not really moved to give a present to:
- Try imagining what the worst thing is that could happen if you don't give them a present. Would it really be that bad?
- Wouldn't a heartfelt (handmade?) card make you feel better than a half-heartedly bought present?
- If you still want to give them something, try asking them if there's anything they would be happy about.
If you still feel like you should give them something:
- Homemade cookies are rarely the wrong choice.
- Try to think of something that will be a present to more than only the receiver: Supporting an institution with a cause that you both believe in, or buying the present from an artist in your community or a small shop that you like will at least give some sense to the act and maybe make you feel more satisfied with the whole thing.
- Try to avoid desperate impulse buys of funny wine corks, non-subtle aprons and cute dust-collectors. They are rarely appreciated and most of it is badly produced junk that will weigh heavy on your environmental and social bill.
For all the people you really want to give something to...
... but really don't know what:
- Ask them. Tell them that you really couldn't think of anything they'd need and you want to make sure they're happy about their present. Tell them that if they don't come up with anything they need, you'll make them a bag of cookies (or, if it seems more fit, a bottle of wine etc.), or give them a gift certificate. Most people will appreciate your thoughtfulness – nobody likes to receive a gift that they can't use. Maybe they are really very content with what they have (my dad is such a case...) and don't want anything more.Often it is hard to think of things that you really want when somebody is waiting for an answer. A gift certificate from a nice store (maybe one that has a sustainable philosophy?) is often a good solution for people who happen to stumble upon the perfect present in January.
- You can also profit of this fact yourself if you keep a list of gift-ideas during the year. I often get into a situation where I am with a person and I realise: „Yes, this would be a perfect gift for him/her!“ I write it down as soon as possible and it has helped me out of brainstorming-misery for many X-mases and birthdays.
...If you have an idea:
- Can you make it yourself? The best solution. You know what's in it, you know what will come out of it – and everybody appreciates the personal touch and your effort.
- Can you buy it locally/handmade/fairtrade? Two out of the three would be even better, of course! ;o)
- Start early. The middle of October might seem early to be freaking about Christmas for some of you. But the thing is: Because it is early, I don't have to freak. And since I have enough time to think about all the things that I've listed above, I don't get stressed and buy junk only so I can be 'guiltfree' (in our strange ways, of course) under the Christmas tree.
Christmas really is the time of year where people buy things like it was their last time. Not only presents. There's so many things we think we need so Christmas can be 'real' – and strangely enough, you can all buy them at the mall. Hallelujah!
So take a moment and think about what you really need and what things you can come up with a sustainable, more personal alternative.
This is a time where every little change can have a big influence.