For the past few years, I have given people hand made Christmas gifts out of absolute necessity. For a start, it made me completely reassess the whole relationship that I had with present-giving and receiving this time of year. My initial fears, “people won’t understand” or “they won’t like it” or the worst: “they’ll expect something better” – actually helped me to whittle down the list, from people I felt obliged to exchange a gift with, to the true friends and close family that would truly understand why they got a cross stitched picture, or a pair of hand made cuff links made from two spare buttons and a pair of cuff link backs. The reasoning last year was, if they don’t understand that I am struggling to even put food on the table for myself and my son, then why the fig am I worried about getting them a token present?
The cutback was brutal. I am a great lover of surprising people with small gifts, gestures, “I saw this and thought of you” moments, and in previous years would festoon friends and family with “things”. Because I could. Because I wanted to. And to not be able to do that, felt brutal.
But I asked myself – will X understand that I can’t go mad this year? Are they a close enough friend/family member that I’ve even told theme how bad things are? And if the answer was no, then I gave them a card, and that was that. It sounds harsh, and at odds with the nature of the season, but don’t give to receive, and neither should anyone else. Brazen it out. If someone has given you a gift, DO NOT be embarrassed. They shouldn’t be doing it because they expect something in return. That’s not friendship or familial love, it’s a bizarre custom that we all obsess about and worry about and spend far too much money on, because we feel we “have to.” Try not to. See how much better you feel when you’re not racking up your credit card and still paying it off in the summer for a bunch of people who don’t talk to you for most of the year anyway.
I’m aware that sounds harsh. But you know what? Those that mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind. Last year I handmade cross stitch pictures for people. My screening point was “do I love you enough to spend 10 hours making you something?” and “Do you love me enough to recognise that 10 hours of work went into this, even if it cost me less than £1?” There were a lot of names crossed off the list…