Millo's Musings

Please Don't Get Me Anything For Christmas

10 December 2013


I can’t put this off for another year. I need to make my feelings known.

I am hereby permanently opting out of holiday gift exchanges, for all future Christmases, birthdays, and whatever other occasions. I don’t want to buy anyone any presents, and I especially don’t want to receive them.

Why? Mainly because I can’t go on pretending. I find nothing positive whatsoever in the tradition, and haven’t for years. It’s time to inject some more honesty into my life.

Before you drag out all the tired, uninspired jibes about Scrooge or the Grinch, I should say that there are actually a lot of things about Christmas I enjoy. I enjoy the tinsel, the fake snow, the lights, and the Christmas trees. I enjoy the mulled wine, the markets, the carols, and the Christmas Eve spent crammed into a tiny pub in my hometown with all the friends I don’t see often enough. I enjoy stuffing my face with turkey, pigs in blankets, Christmas pudding, and especially mince pies (om nom nom!). I even enjoy spending time with my family.

What I don’t enjoy is the mindless, moronic, zombielike consumerism, the billions of pounds that get frittered away every year on pointless junk that’s mostly binned or forgotten by December 27th, and all the stress, debt, dishonesty and profligacy that comes with it . The ridiculous belief that buying things for people equates to showing you appreciate them. The meaningless focus on one arbitrary day of the year at the expense of the other 364. The unbelievable waste in an ever-polluted world where billions of people are still starving. This is not who I am, and it doesn’t match what I value.

Top it all off with a hefty helping of Christmas advertising - I can’t stand advertising at the best of times, and in December it’s enough to make me feel homicidal - and I get queasy just thinking of it. The thought of suffering through this farce for a 23rd time running fills me with equal parts nausea and dread.

The common rhetoric is that people exchange gifts at Christmastime because they love each other. Actually, that’s not how it works at all. The main reason people buy each other gifts is because, brainwashed by the 3500+ marketing messages they take in every day, they feel obliged to. When gifts are bought, expectations have been met and things continue as normal; when they’re not, people get offended and resentful. The only possible outcomes are neutral or negative. That’s not an expression of love, that’s an expression of fear!

I’ve got no problem with the idea of gift-giving in general. But, like tipping - another custom I find utterly ridiculous - once gift-giving becomes obligatory (and don’t pretend it’s not obligatory) it completely defies the entire point of doing it in the first place. It’s a  meaningless and arbitrary custom that exists only to keep the profit wheels turning, and I’ve had enough.

I’ve never put much effort into Christmas anyway, and I can’t see myself ever trying harder. I hate shopping whatever the season, and at Christmastime my antipathy reaches its peak. I always put off my gift-hunting until the last possible minute then rush through it all as quickly as possible. I never have any idea what to get anyone, and I usually just resort to buying everyone a load of overpriced tat from the Christmas aisle at Waitrose. I don’t even remember what I got anyone last year, and I doubt they do either. Have I really been fooling anybody? Do my family really need to go through this charade one more time to know that I love them? And even if I didn’t love them, how would buying them gifts help?

Furthermore - and this is a separate issue that would be true even if I didn’t believe a word of what I’ve already written - I do not want anything. I want to own as little as possible, and I’ve ditched at least 70% of my possessions in the last year alone . In my ideal reality I would own nothing, and everything I need would spring into existence right when I need it and disappear as soon as I’m done. As this is unrealistic, my current goal is to own nothing more than can be taken on a single flight with no excess luggage fees. I’m not there yet, which means I need to get rid of things, not add them. Every additional item I’m forced to possess is a burden around my neck that I resent. You might find pleasure in giving me free stuff, but I find extreme displeasure in receiving it, so there.

And don’t give me money, either. I want to earn and deserve the money I receive. Give it to charity if you really insist on parting with it. I recommend the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation.

So, there you have it. It’s nice to get my feelings off my chest, even if they do put me in the minority. Anyway, I like to think it’s a larger minority than people admit. Plenty of people have misgivings about Christmas. The real question is how many people are honest about them.

And to those who honestly disagree, that’s fine. If you really find meaning in exchanging Christmas presents - if it’s a conscious choice you make based on your values and not just a socially conditioned habit you do out of a sense of obligation - shop away, I’m not going to stop you. Just for fuck’s sake don’t get me anything. I won’t appreciate it.

If anything I’ve written here offends your sensibilities, I suggest you find some Christmas cheer.

P.S. A few people have asked “but what if you have kids?” Will I buy presents for them? What will I tell them about Father Christmas? Honestly, I don’t know. I imagine that, like LSD or sex, parenthood is one of those things that you can’t understand until you’ve experienced it for yourself, so it would be stupid to try and make any decisions now. In the meantime, I don’t plan on having kids any time soon, and this question is completely irrelevant.

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