The Christmas gift set: a cautionary tale (with tongue firmly in-cheek)
The Office for National Statistics has estimated that, in the run-up to Christmas, a gift set will go through an average of three giftings before the final giftee is given the item on Christmas Eve and it’s too late to pass it on. At this point the final recipient either keeps it for next year’s gift-set-pass-the-parcel or sticks it in the back of the bathroom cabinet and never thinks of it again.
This of course is a complete lie but there is a grain of truth in there somewhere. According to Wikipedia, this is what Christmas has become:
“Because gift-giving and many other aspects of the Christmas festival involve heightened economic activity … The economic impact of Christmas has grown steadily over the past few centuries in many regions of the world”
Finding fun on the high stress pre-Christmas
Let me start by saying this is not a rant against Christmas consumerism. We live in a consumerist society and Christmas is bound to be part of that. It is just a suggestion that the holidays are meant to be fun and that the card and gift buying, for most people, is clearly not.
In December the shops are piled high with things that nobody really wants, to be bought by people who probably cannot really afford them for people they don’t really see that often. All of this seems to be based on the horrible anxiety that someone might give you a card or a present and you haven’t got them one. And the ultimate expression of this anxiety is the Christmas gift set.
The Christmas gift set
Christmas gift sets are either insulting by implication – the implication being that you know little about the person you are giving it to and thus have to select the most generic Christmas present known to man. Or just plain insulting – think hair removal kits and body wash sets. The upshot of this is that we spend a lot of Christmas being anxious, skint and insulted. And by early January the charity shops will be groaning under an avalanche of gift sets.
Someone I know, in a particularly explosive reaction to seeing a Christmas hair-removal kit gift set (Happy Christmas, Darling, and… um… would you mind doing something about the ‘tache?) decided to stop buying cards and presents at Christmas completely. Here is what happened. Year One: 3 people were a bit miffed; Year Two: 1 person was a bit miffed; Year Three: nobody was a bit miffed.
In the 17th century, laugh-a-minute revolutionary Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentary Party cancelled Christmas in England. This was a bit extreme and not at all necessary. By all means, choose presents you can afford for people you care about and if you have children, please try to avoid home-crafting their presents or get them a charity goat (you know why).
Enjoy the bits of Christmas you like
There are lots of very nice things about Christmas. Two public holidays which can be eked out with your remaining annual leave leads those of all faiths and none to say ‘Thank you Jesus!’ In 1882, less than three years after Edison unveiled the lightbulb, Edward Hibberd Johnson produced a garland of small, flashing coloured lights which he rigged to a revolving Christmas tree. That is what I call an inventor!
Just do the bits you like: enjoy the food, enjoy the company and enjoy the lights. If someone gets you a card (or a gift set) and you haven’t bought them one – the most apocalyptic thing that may happen is that they will be a bit miffed – but they probably won’t.