Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas is for Giving

So, whose pile of unwanted gifts is ready for return/further distribution/exchange?

Christmas is for giving, I’m told. Who am I to argue.

Tinsel, turkey, tantrums and togetherness, all gift-wrapped in shiny sentimentality, have been and gone. Well, maybe the turkey hasn’t quite left the premises as yet, there is still the carcass to be turned into stock and about a week’s worth of leftovers have to be dealt with/turned into rissoles (a.k.a. frikos) or, more sensibly, surreptitiously fed to the dog when no one is watching.

What to do with the gifts? If you are lucky, have trained your family and friends well, or you belong to that happy breed who is not afraid to say exactly what they want for Christmas then you may be blissfully happy with your little stash, ready to enjoy the books, CDs, chocolates, etc. Lucky you! Otherwise you may now be deliberating whether to brave the shops with a view to returning items during the hectic Sales period for something more to your taste, or hang on for a while longer, when everything half decent might have been sold. Is there a chance that Aunt Lizzie might find out that you have taken the colourful ski jumper she knitted for you, or the massive ghost-written autobiography spanning the first 15 years in the life of some minor celebrity which Uncle Fred has kindly bestowed on you, to the Charity shop already?  Problems, problems, and you're still reeling from that small altercation between Frieda and George about the time he was caught under the mistletoe with her from next door.

Christmas is for giving.

Gardener was telling me that he has drawers full of short socks, all proudly presented by his sister-in-law, a new pair or two every Christmas. “I hates them”, he says, “I never wears them, they slips under the heel and I has to pull them up all the time.  I’ve a good mind to take them to the Rashity shop. (Gardener has verbal dyslexia). “Why don’t you tell her”, I asked.  Stupid question, the answer was obvious. I should have known.  "Noooo, I canna do that, it’s the thought”, he says. In fact, he is quite embarrassed by my show of social ineptitude.

Any of his employers, who give him a bottle for Christmas run the risk of receiving a recycled one in return. We had one from him this year  in spite of having given him some gardening tools. “ If I gets a bottle, I looks round to pass it on, like”, he says, totally without irony. As he handed it over,  he reassured us that he had bought ours. “I only drinks for Christmas, or for family parties”, he says, ” and I always has to finish the bottle, can’t leave nothing in, as I dinna drink it the next day.” He says this like it’s a matter of honour.
That seems to go for bottles of spirits too, expecially for home made sloe gin, which starts off as slin goe, until one of us helps him out with a straight face. Sloe gin appears to be a great favourite; one of his employers gives him a bottle for Christmas every year. Gardener is willing to share it on family occasions but, if nobody drinks with him, as usually happens, he finishes it off in one sitting, by himself.

Christmas is for giving.

Then there’s the delightful young women, one half of a couple with two small children struggling to make ends meet satisfactorily, who comes and helps me in the house occasionally. She starts her Christmas shopping at the end of October, “in dribs and drabs”, she says, because she can’t afford to buy every one a present otherwise. By ‘everyone’ she means the many children her nine siblings have produced between them, each of whom receives a present of some considerable monetary value.  And her own children only get one ‘major’ present each, apart from the small toys and games she puts into their stockings. When she told me the cost of the ‘major’ present I was amazed. “Because there were so many of us, Mum couldn’t afford to get us presents”, she told me, “I want my kids to have everything I never had”.  Okay, that may be laudable, but to go house cleaning for others to buy expensive presents for  a dozen or more nieces and nephews?

Christmas is for giving. Giving is more blessed than receiving.

We give and receive small presents, books, music, food and drink, tickets for a concert, a subscription to a magazine, a plant for the garden. We have no small children around, which would be a sad thing for the proud grandads and grannies who revel in the shiny faces of the very young at Christmas, nor are we obliged to put up with cantankerous, elderly relatives who have nowhere else to go, who have outlived their welcome everywhere else.

Scrooges, us? Bah humbug!


  1. Oh can't fool me. You are a soft-hearted, kind sweetie. You can't keep a star from reflecting light. Great post.

  2. Last year, I made sure all except immediate family knew that presents were not going to be on the agenda. It's ridiculous when people begin to feel obliged to exchange presents. I remember times when I've produced some kind of small, home made gift to show appreciation, maybe, then watched this escalate into full blown present buying in subsequent years. Not any more!

  3. What a beautiful entry of yours. This was the first year when the whole family did not buy anything - and strangly one of the best Christmases ever.
    Please have you all a wonderful Sunday and a nice start into the new week as well.

  4. Well said Friko. We have kept things simple for many years now, and the our festivities haven't suffered as a result.

  5. Our lot exchanged a fair few presents, none of great monetary value, but what's nice is seeing their faces, not just the ones receiving, but the ones giving, and so pleased and excited to give. As long as they're keeping that up, I'm happy with them.

  6. I am going to admit that we do Christmas in a very practical way sending out lists via email weeks before the event so that everyone gets what they want and then we discuss who is giving what to whom, although I still have to add a surpise or two.

  7. I was very amused to get an email from La today with a picture of a miserable elf on it sitting on unwanted gifts lookign very glum. Roughly translated it read peed off with unsuitable gifts which you wish you had not been given ? Then why not re sell them for free on our website!!

    MIL seems to have given me this year everything everyone gave her andshe didnt want but its quiet fun trying to work out who amongst her friends gave her which present that I haev now been given.

  8. Came for a visit from QMM! Loved your post! Hubby and I gave lots of presents to our kids, their spouses, and the grandangels! We asked for them not to give us anything but their love! It was wonderful! Even though I'm not THAT old, I'm already thinking of whom to give some of my treasures to, that I've collected over the years! I'm observing how some of the grands look at this or that longingly, or have an appreciation for some figurine I had been given, and then I'll make up my mind. No unwanted gifts at our house this year!

  9. Oh, that made me chuckle, Friko! I have to say, we love to give gifts at Christmas and also to receive them. And we are stunned, every year at the thoughfulness of our friends and family. It's never anything big, but we can always tell that they see and understand who we are and what we love. And we get the same joy thinking of those we love and trying to think what they might enjoy! And if it's unwanted, I have no problem with them recycling the gift. I, for one, have never returned or exchanged a single gift. I've loved them all!! Hope you had a wonderful holiday and wishing all the best for the New Year!! Hugs, Silke

  10. I see you and I are of one mind on the gift-giving issue!

    Gardener sounds like a right character!

  11. My children and I exchange Christmas lists, which are usually pretty modest although I do like to give a little surprise as well, and so there's rarely a disappointment or an exchange. I have such a small social circle that the spectre of gift-giving to others beyond the immediate family rarely comes up.
    When I was a piano teacher, my students used to ply me with boxes of chocolates. I msut be the only person on the planet who doesn't appreciate chocolate, so they would often get 're-gifted'. My biggest treats were from students who gave me either home-made jams or a gift certificate to the bookstore!
    I love your posts, Friko. They always make me feel like you've invited me right into your cozy house and poured me a cup of tea.

  12. It is crazy. We've had lean times and changed our 'traditions'. You just have to make it work.

    We do not do turkey.

    We had a grand time visiting with the kids through Skype, though. That made my day!

  13. Lovely post, Friko, which really hits the spot. This year I had not prepared enough pressies in advance of my incarceration post op. consequently the pile beneath the tree was rather lower than usual. We do try to find out by any means, the Christmas 'wishes' though lists did not work last year due to a lack of liaison, and one poor member of the family ended up with two of everything.

    What it all boils down to, in our house, is that we all know how much we are loved, and accept all gifts with joy. [I have never ever returned a gift]

    A very happy New Year to you and yours.

  14. For several years now most of the family have prepared useful wish lists. This year our son broke ranks an d made a plea for no more lists. It will be quite interesting to see what happens. My head agrees with him, my heart is worried.

  15. i honestly think there is a defective gene in some of the people who think that by giving expensive gifts, they are in the christmas spirit and not scrooge{ my wife gave clothes, games, vidios, books, the w2 band thing, the w2 sports, money{4oo each} to every one of our seven kids and the grands got double that, i gave my love and my time, she did this cause her mom died and left her 10,,000 to spend

  16. Bonnie - how sweet of you to say that; I wish I were as nice as you make me sound. Thank you so much.

    Jinksy - I am quite happy to give small presents for special occasions; I have nothing per se against giving at any time, including Christmas; it's the excess I object to.

    Robert - may you always have a wonderful Christmas, irrespective of giving presents. Guten Rutsch und Prost Neujahr!

    Martin H - just like us. It also saves on the mad shopping spree before Christmas which makes for a calmer and more pleasant atmosphere all round.

    Fran Hill - sounds like you had a good family Christmas with children, I agree that that is worth keeping going.

    Tabor - I can't see anything wrong with that, it may sound too practical and planned but at least everyone will be happy with what they receive.

    her at home - oh dear, that does not sound like a happy result. I don't think I would go quite as far as that. If anything is recycled, it's Charity which receives the goods not a friend or family member.

    Karin - good for you. Handing things on that somebody covets, particularly when it's a child, is a good feeling. We all have far too much anyway and there should be more distribution to those who have less.

    Silke - yours sounds like the ideal family, where everyone considers the needs and wishes of everyone else and gives accordingly. If only that would go for all families. Guten Rutsch und Prost Neujahr!

    June - He certainly is, but he is also a friendly and hard working man whom I appreciate very much, a real old-fashioned countryman.

    Deborah - We too have few people on whom we need to bestow gifts but the few we give are chosen carefully. They are always small gifts, although I admit to having given money to a particularly hard up couple in the family, in order for them to buy what they needed to make their Christmas go well.

    Come and have a cup of tea, you will always be welcome.

    Jenn Jilks - I have been thinking about Skype, I shall check it out. Distant family in North America have suggested that it would be a very good idea.

    Moannie - That just it, without love in the family all the gifts in the world make no difference; they may give short-lived pleasure but leave the spirit of giving in limbo.

    Dave King - I hope all will go well in future; it depends a little on the attitude of the others too. Where all are agreed on a course of action, there will be no argument. I hope you'll manage to keep the peace.

    Putz - That does sound a little over the top. What will the lady do for an encore? Your wife sounds like a warm hearted and generous kind of woman, very happy to support her family; I hope the family will not be disappointed if the gifts are not quite as generous another year.

  17. I think a gift that isn't really thought about can hurt as much as an insult. Sometimes I wish I could just choose who to give to and who not, without insulting anyone. I's easy to give to children but what to give to an elderly dad who has no hobbies?
    My son(18) gave his granny a voucher for accompanied walks, as she is in poor health but loves to walk the nearby woods. She was so touched she nearly cried.
    Guten Rutsch und alles Liebe für 2010 Ivy

  18. I love your wit! Christmas gifts can be an oddity can't they? I certainly do not want an expensive gift... just a card to a bookstore and I'm great.

    Have a Happy New Year,

  19. Ivy - I know about the difficulties of giving to somebody who says "he has everything, doesn't need anything". One year I pretended I really didn't have anything and you should have seen the face! After that it was "just a small thing, it's the appreciation that counts".

    Shattered - me too - or even better, a book that I've hinted at for weeks would be nice.


Comments are good, I like to know what you think of my posts. I know you'll keep it civil.