Is it possible to buy the perfect gift for the one you love at Christmas?

Published date: 23 December 2013 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


ON CHRISTMAS morning I am going to unwrap a few kilos of iron – and that’s about it.

I asked for a set of adjustable dumbbells, and I’m currently in dispute with a relative over whether or not I should wait to receive a waterproof coat before Christmas.

My current one has holes burned in it due to my close proximity to several camp fires, but I want to wait until the sales because it just makes more sense.

“But you won’t have anything to open on the day” they protest.

To be honest, I don’t really mind sitting under a slightly wonky tree in my Mold home watching other people open their gifts.

That’s not because I’m a Tiny Tim, content with a paltry slice of poultry and a pat on the head.

It’s more because I’ve been caught in a cycle where, for some reason, I’ve had to give (and by extension get) more and more spectacular presents than the year before.

We have to have the Best Christmas Ever every year.

It starts early.

I recently found a clipboard I’d graffitied with juvenile pictures of holly and bells.

From the handwriting, it was from when I was in Bryn Coch juniors.

I vividly remember using it in August to tot up how much pocket money I could save and what I could buy, a little girl saving and budgeting for six months to buy Christmas presents.

Conversely, I also used to ring items in the Argos catalogue far in advance of Advent.

My dutiful parents would buy at least some of them.

Inevitably the toys ended up gathering dust while I turned the empty box into a spaceship or a luxury biscuit-strewn den for the cat.

The problem is gift-escalation and panic buying.

I’m never sure if what I’ve got people is as good as last year, so I’ll grab something else and shove it in the basket, just in case.

I had notable successes over the years. Oddly, the “I bought some dung/condoms in your name” Oxfam Unwrapped gifts went down well.

Others failed miserably.

One board game got played once before being permanently cupboard-bound, while a wheel of unpalatable fancy cheese mouldered in the fridge.

I’m not the only one whose gift-giving misfired.

Two relatives have been passing identical gifts of Lily-of-the-Valley to each other year after year. It isn’t the same bottle – they both have a lifetime supply of the scent and neither of them wear it.

I’ve also been the recipient of a few unfortunate presents.

The most infamous was the year I developed clinically diagnosed OCD, which manifested as ritual washing. I was 13, a difficult age to buy for, and nobody knew about the condition.

Subsequently, everyone gave me soap.

After my 10th box of toiletries, I began to feel like a recovering alcoholic being showered with rum and vodka.

The fact is, not only do we not need a lot of the things we buy each other, we don’t want them either.

Frankly, it’s unsustainable on every front.

I wrote an article in November about families who turn to creditors every Christmas.

In real terms, the poorest pay proportionally more for the festivities than anyone else.

They spend a bigger cut of their income and those that go on the never-never have to deal with the headache of interest payments which can leave them cash-strapped into the New Year.

More than that, we are expending valuable resources making novelty items that are about as practical and personal as a plastic dog mess.

Sadly, every year, the excess keyrings, singing, battery-powered whatsits and gifts that generate half-hearted giggles before being discarded are piling up in landfill.

There is no point moaning about the commercialising of Christmas – those three ships sailed a long time ago, but that isn’t to say that has to ruin the day.

I’m hoping that, if all I get is a coat and a set of weights this year, then that will break the cycle.

Next year I won’t have to go overboard for others because this year, people didn’t go overboard for me.

There are plenty of good, useful, much-appreciated gifts to be found out there, whether we sniff them out or make them ourselves.

All we have to do is step back, breathe, and put down the plastic dog mess. It isn’t worth it.

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