Gift giving was never a strength in my family. Sure, we gave gifts, we just didn’t do it well, as in “Hey, here’s your annual CD/book/cake that’s indistinguishable from what I got you last year.” Later, through friends and girlfriends, I learned what a good gift was: something personal and thoughtful that they’d enjoy or need, but probably wouldn’t think to buy for themselves.
But with the web, and the same 15 chain stores in every mall in every city, it’s harder to buy truly good gifts. There is an abundance of easily available impersonal goods people don’t want or need. And I’m loathe to buy people stuff anyway – I know few folks who complain about empty storage rooms, closets or kitchen cabinets.
So this year I made two rules:
- To buy only experiences. Tickets to plays, events, massages, meals, things that they’ll experience and own as a memory instead of as a thing. Perhaps I can baby or pet sit for friends, gifts that could make a difference. This also has the benefit of low environmental impact if you’re into that sort of thing.
- To make things for people. If I make it with my own hands then it’s impossible to get at the GAP, or amazon, and as ugly or fragile as it might be, it will be personal. Writing a letter is more personal and requires more of my precious time than any clever purchase ever could. It will will represent more of the the most precious thing i have, my time, than anything I could buy.
The problem is I don’t know how to make anything. I can give lectures and write essays, but those don’t fit the bill for a personal gift for anyone I know. So while I figure this out, if the basic idea intrigues you, you’re not alone.
Buy nothing Christmas is an alternative approach to the holidays. There are various flavors, from simple tips for inexpensive and creative gifts, to ideas for parents and kits for simplifying the holiday season.
Perhaps my favorite is the Canadian Buy nothing Christmas group, asks the question “What would Jesus buy?” with a humorous catalog of free things to give (includes the ever popular seaweed), advocacy, and even a well written FAQ. Check it out.