This time of year, the differences between the haves and the have nots is both noticeable, and particularly painful. Shopping for a Christmas feast and leaving some cans or box of chocolates in the City Mission’s food collection box is a minor, painless step for me. And I wonder how many people even do that? Yet we still have left over food, and plenty of wine in the wine rack (and fridge), that was bought to stock up, and all those chocolate truffles my niece and her cousin made, and forgot to take home.
And then there is the shopping, the unnecessary buying of gifts. And it is unnecessary, let’s face it. I genuinely try to buy something that someone will use and enjoy. I know I’m better at that than some (all of whom shall remain nameless), but it annoys me to see gifts that are just bought because they’re gifts, rather than they’re something that will be used and enjoyed. It’s why I think a book is the best gift of all for certain members of my family, because I know that it will be appreciated and enjoyed. I’d rather get nothing than something that either has no thought, or is just going to be put to the side and ignored. I don’t like getting something that I know cost someone else money they can’t afford, and that I can easily buy, or vice versa. It’s why I like present amnesty agreements, or home-made gifts, or offering to do something in lieu of gift. The calendar with my 4-year-old niece’s art on it is a treasured present – it means something. And this year, I researched and planned a trip to France for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in lieu of gifts. That meant something – both to me as the giver, and to them (who let’s face it don’t need me to buy them anything). It’s also why my elder sister and I agreed on a present amnesty this year. Yet there is still something about opening gifts, and seeing others open the gifts we have given them. It’s a coming together, a sharing of our good fortune, a show of love and caring. But still, it makes me uncomfortable.
On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas Day), I heard on the radio that 20,000 new items (presumably unwanted gifts) had been listed on Trademe (NZ’s answer to Ebay or Craig’s List) in the previous 24 hours. Christmas wasn’t even over, and people were trying to cash in on presents they’d been given and didn’t appreciate. (Re-giftiing or returning gifts has never really been culturally acceptable here in NZ).
We really need to rethink this whole consumerist, high-consumption approach. It doesn’t make me feel good, even though I love wearing my new (stylish) necklace from my niece, and go off in search of some more of those chocolate truffles.