Oh God! But I didn’t get you anything!

Christmas makes me a bit of a curmudgeon. I don’t like the forced jollity. I don’t like the ghosts of Christmases past that haunt me. While I love an excuse to party, I don’t like the compulsion to be happy. The implication that if you don’t love Christmas there is something wrong with you. My kids love Christmas, and I do my damnedest not to ruin it for them, but the truth is that Christmas is far too full of painful memories for me to embrace it unconditionally.

Above all I hate the obligations. The reciprocal “Oh no, she sent me a card so I’d better send her one” frenzy that results in a lot of late Christmas cards and a whole stack of completely pointless “dear X, Merry Christmas Love Y” cards, which convey nothing so much as disinterest.

And yet. Christmas, or at least the end of the working year, can be a great trigger to remind people that you appreciate them.  So I do write cards, but generally only when I have something I especially need to express. There are many I probably should write and don’t. There are many more friends I appreciate and adore who don’t get cards. But people who have been especially present, or particularly life-saving do tend to get heartfelt cards from me. Particularly at work. And sometimes, when I find a particularly relevant gift, I will also give Christmas presents. Unfortunately this comes with the risk that people will feel horribly guilty about not getting me something.


So today I posted this on facebook:

“Here’s the thing – if I’ve given you a gift or a card, it’s not because I expect one in return. That’s actually one of the things I hate about christmas – that sense of obligation, which rips all the spontaneity out of it. I don’t want or need gifts. But sometimes I feel the need to express my affection and appreciation. No strings attached. nuff said!”

and within moments it had attracted a string of likes. It seemed to be striking a chord.

I really don’t need gifts. I always attach “no gifts please” to any birthday invitations I might issue. I’m not a big fan of stuff anyway, although I have a policy of never turning down gluten free chocolate or alcohol. Not that I would knock back a gift, but I don’t need them, not the way I need, for example, hugs. Even though I don’t need gifts myself, sometimes I feel the urge to appreciate my friends in tangible form, and sometimes that urge happily coincides with inspiration for the right gift.  But if I do give you a gift it’s generally because you have already given me far more, so a return gift is entirely superfluous.

Christmas isn’t about gifts. The best of Christmas, to me, is about hugs and friendship and love. So don’t fret about buying gifts. Work on expressing your feelings instead. With a hug, or a card, or a few heartfelt words. Those are the best gifts of all.


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