Luke

Holiday Revelation

Written on Tuesday 5th January, 2021

For someone who wrote for a gift-list site, I admittedly was never one for giving gifts. Call me frugal, call me dull, call me a grouch, call me what you will, but I would call myself content.

If I needed something, I bought it myself. And if I wanted some dopamine-inducing trinket, toy, or simple pleasure, I would forgo it. I prefer to avoid excessive consumption, as I like to keep my footprint small. And one day any little purchase I made would become clutter anyway, so why bother?

And so I rarely go to stores. I rarely shop, even during Christmas times. Christmas, above all else, represents the worst of the first world's overconsumption: boxes, material goods, and endless amounts of unnecessary wrapping paper that is not recyclable due to its waxy and glittery finishes.

 But due to love's many obligations, I followed my girlfriend Emma and her friend Sierra on a holiday shopping excursion. We went in search of gift bags for Emma's Christmas presents. A simple trip. In and out, I thought.

We went to a Home Goods store, a warehouse of housewarming knick knacks and end table ornaments: plastic Christmas trees, plastic candelabras, miniature plastic fire trucks with wreaths on their hoods, plastic snowmen, plastic-capped LED string lights, and of course a plush snowman which sings and dances when you press its hand. "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" played on loop from its tinny-timbred speakers. I watched a toddler, with a dollop of snot dripping from its nostril, pinch the snowman's hand over and over, never letting the song finish before setting the snowman off again.

We wandered through the store. Emma and Sierra ran their hands over the items on the shelves like the flapper on a game show's wheel.

"Ooh, this is nice." Emma held up a succulent nested in a hanging glass ball. Festive green and red stones surrounded the plant. "It can be our gift to Grammy…from the two of us."  

"That's tacky," I said.

She jabbed her tongue at me and walked away with the plant, disappearing around the corner. 

"What's your problem?" Sierra asked.

I shrugged.

Sierra glared at me. "Since we've entered this store you've been super judgy."

I ignored her and stepped quickly after Emma, who was eyeing up a wreath the next aisle over. 

"Where are the gift bags?" I asked, reminding Emma why we came here.

"Oh, we passed them. They're by the entrance."

I sighed, turned away, and started for the entrance. The bags were there - in a wire bin six steps from the front door. We could have left fifteen minutes ago.

To me, this - this whole store, this whole shopping experience - seemed wasteful. Wasting time, wasting resources. I was raised in a pragmatic household, in which we liquidated our gift-giving festivities, filling envelopes full of money instead of buying gifts. It made Christmas day less eventful, but it made the time before and after less stressful. No one had to take hours upon hours to shop for gifts, nor did anyone waste any time returning them. We simply received our token checks and twenty dollar bills, and we went on our merry ways. 

So as I stared at the gift bags, wondering which one to pick, I could only see a pile of trash. None of the bags were recyclable. None were memorable or heartfelt. Not one made me say, these gift bags are integral and absolutely necessary to finding the joy of Christmas.

Emma and Sierra found me minutes later. I held an assortment of bags in my hands. 

"Will these work?" I asked.

Emma took the bags from my hands. "God, you're the worst at this," she said, exasperated. She chucked the bags back in the bin and sifted through for another set.

"Those were so tacky," she said.

"They all are," I said.

Emma looked at me and shook her head again.

Christmas Day

Christmas morning hasn't meant much to me for many years, if you couldn't tell. But I never thought I was missing anything. 

This year, unable to leave the state of Vermont due to COVID, I remained in the cold north with Emma, and celebrated with her family.

"You're in for a treat," she told me. "My mom is spending a lot of time on your gifts."

"I really don't need anything," I said. I relayed this to Emma many times. In return, with a mischievous smile, she would always say, "I know."

I truly wanted nothing. Why couldn't she see I was content? I am well fed, and not in squalor. I have a cell phone, an automobile, running water, a warm bed, a saxophone, and even a snowboard. For someone who prided themself on not wanting much, even I had many superfluous things (like a saxophone and guitar). I wanted nothing. And I especially didn't want to be a burden on Emma or her family.

"Truly, I need nothing," I said again.

"I know…it's okay."

I think Emma added the latter to let me know it was frivolous to argue. The gifts - if they hadn't already - would be bought, and she accepted my statement like an apology. And when Christmas day came, I understood.

Presents littered the tree in a scene I had not witnessed since the early, sugary cereal days of my youth. The tree was in a nook, a turret corner that jutted from the house. Presents filled the nook - wall to wall - so that one couldn't touch the tree without stepping on a carefully wrapped box. Glitter, tinsel, bows, and reds and greens colored the scene. It was stunning. A work of art.

I, Emma, her parents, her sister, and her "Grammy," sat around a nearby coffee table, hot chocolate, coffee, and cranberry mimosas prepped and ready.

"So who's first?" Emma asked as she began reading the name tags on the sea of gifts. She handed out packages left and right, and immediately the room was filled with the sound of tearing paper. Discarded wrapping paper would, by the end, fill a trash bag big enough to swallow the tree itself.

"Here's one for you," Emma said, handing me a box.

"Oh, you know I didn't really need anything…" I tapered off as Emma shot me a look.

I pursed my lips and swallowed my pride. Around the room, the parents, grandmother, and sister all watched me intently. "Go on, open it!" Grammy said. I read the tag, and saw that it was from her.

I smiled and began tearing the glittery wrapping paper, still thinking about how none of it was recyclable. Within was a decorated box. I slid the lid off, and inside was a lovely, but nondescript mustard yellow hoodie. A pleasant color, muted and unique, but nothing special.

"Aw, thanks!" I said, kindly, holding up the hoodie.

Emma returned to the pile to find another gift.

"Do you like it?" Grammy asked.

Propriety told me to show exuberance. "I love it! I think I'll wear it everyday!"

"Oh, I'm so glad!" Grammy smiled ear to ear. A genuine smile, evident in the arch of her eyebrows and twinkle in her eyes.

Emma returned from the tree with a spherical present, wrapped awkwardly, but carried with absolute care by Emma, her hands cupping it gently. She delivered the gift to Grammy.

"This one's from Luke and I," Emma added.

Grammy took it and smiled, admiring the odd shape before peeling away the paper. Gingerly, she pulled away the last layer, and held before her the plant from Home Goods.

Briefly, I was reminded of how tacky it was, but that feeling subsided quickly as I became nervous. I wanted Grammy to like it and to appreciate our gift to her. Even though I didn't pick it out, even though I thought it was tacky, and even though I had no respect for gifting, I wanted Grammy to be happy. I wanted to see her smile.

Grammy palmed the plant, her eyes studying the details in the festive stones and glass sphere. She held it close to her face, adjusting her glasses.

"Oh!" she said. "It's adorable!" She smiled. "I love it!"

And in one instance every critical thought, every critique of Christmas' impracticality vanished. I was overjoyed, and I was glad that Grammy was glad. I was glad we were all happy and safe and appreciated on this Christmas morning. I no longer noticed the trash bag of wrapping paper, and I forgot about our excessive trek through Home Goods. In one little moment I forgot all that and realized the "why" of Christmas: why people bother with festivities and gifts and the stress of it all. It brings everyone together for a shared moment.

Denouement

We left Emma's home Christmas night. The gravel of the drive crunched heavily as we hauled bags upon bags of gifts to the car.

"Do you see why we give gifts?" Emma asked.

"Yes," I said. "I understand."

And I did, and I do. Now, as I write this, I am wearing that mustard yellow hoodie. I wear it seven days a week. And not only because it's cozy, but because every time I put it on I'm reminded of Grammy and her smile. And now I think of her looking at the little succulent, likely sitting inconspicuously on a windowsill, and I imagine her smiling again.

And so, in all these little gifts, there lives a story - something beyond the material. This is an idea the writer in me adores, and it's what attaches me to the idea of Christmas and gift-giving, and may have caused a stark change in my morals. Only time will tell on the latter, but for the moment, I'm looking forward to our next Christmas.

Start your gift listit's completely free

Similar Articles

A Brief History of Gifting

A Brief History of Gifting

Despite it being inherently normal to bestow someone with a gift for an occasion (and sometimes expected) it must have started somewhere. Mustn't it?

Read more

The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

I bet like me, when you think of gift giving, the thoughts of neatly wrapped parcels, big bunches of flowers, high street stores and the stress of 'I don't know what to buy' spring to mind.

Read more

Gift advice for "her" birthday

Gift advice for "her" birthday

If you willingly clicked on the link to this article, it's probably because you're stumped on what to buy your significant other. I'm writing this piece in the context of my own girlfriend's birthday, but you could apply this advice to any holiday or relationship.

Read more

Why it's okay to want

Why it's okay to want

For a long time, I've been afraid of recognition, praise, and gifts. I criticize myself endlessly. I expect better of myself, and I think - no, believe - that gifts and money are wasteful.

Read more

Valentines Day in isolation

Valentines Day in isolation

As we approach a Valentine's Day made distinct by social distancing, it's time to prepare a celebration that renews passion between lovers, but also reminds those other acquaintances what they mean to us.

Read more

New Year, New Gift-List

New Year, New Gift-List

It seems that every January starts the same: new goals, raised expectations, and enough motivation to finish a PAX wardrobe from IKEA even after you lost the instruction manual.

Read more

Holidays, by the books

Holidays, by the books

I think I speak for most people when I say the upcoming holiday season will be a quiet one - figuratively, of course. Mariah Carey will still blast out of every stereo in our house, and I assume your local shopping centre will have the same spirit.

Read more

Funding Your Next Holiday

Funding Your Next Holiday

As hard as Things to Get Me tries, sometimes gifting isn't easy. It's hard to tell what others want. Sometimes, it's hard to tell what you want! And sometimes, people don't want a gift at all.

Read more

Shopping for the Kid in You

Shopping for the Kid in You

Few of us are immune to retailer's many ploys to create artificial moods, myself included. I purchased my first pumpkin spice coffee last week because it came in an enticing orange container.

Read more

Halloween During Covid

Halloween During Covid

It's October! So not only does this mean (hopefully) crisp autumn mornings and darker nights drawing in, but it also means Halloween is approaching!

Read more

It's beginning to look a lot like virtual Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like virtual Christmas

Yes, I agree, it is too soon. The sun still shines. The birds haven't even started packing for the journey south. And rumor has it Santa is taking a vacation in Ibiza.

Read more

How to do back-to-school shopping when there's no school to go back to

How to do back-to-school shopping when there's no school to go back to

It's back to school, mid-covid. So what would a student need then? What should you be shopping for now? Well, here's my list.

Read more

Cut The Clutter

Cut The Clutter

I propose the following clutter-reducing, joy-spreading message: respect the wish list!

Read more

How to shop online with the world in mind

How to shop online with the world in mind

It's 2020, and these days you'd be hard pressed to find a company not taking strides to lighten their carbon footprint.

Read more

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas She’ll Love

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas She’ll Love

It's soon to be Mother's Day in the UK. Prosecco glasses will be clinking all around Britain when the big day comes as people toast to the special ladies in their lives.

Read more

Christmas Party Essentials

Christmas Party Essentials

'Tis the season and if you're the host of a Christmas party this year, your planning is probably well and truly underway. But if you've left it to the last minute - don't fear. We've got you covered with these quick tips!

Read more

How to save time and money at Christmas

How to save time and money at Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching, and the excitement is almost getting too much! The Christmas markets, the gifts, the lights and decorations, the mulled wine… all the lovely things that come along with the winter season are well and truly here.

Read more

Reasons to give a gift list a try

Reasons to give a gift list a try

My Mum and I have always put a lot of thought into buying gifts for one another. Birthdays and Christmas are exciting for us every single year, because we always go out of our way to make sure we get each other something we've never bought before.

Read more

Cool ideas for your next Halloween party

Cool ideas for your next Halloween party

Attending a Halloween party? If you want to bring a little present for the host, a bottle of something spiced would be perfectly on-theme and of course, go down a treat with the guests.

Read more

Baby Shower Party Games

Baby Shower Party Games

No baby shower is complete without a few games to bring all the guests together and have some fun!

Read more

Easy Fathers Day Present Ideas

Easy Fathers Day Present Ideas

As the Summer months draw closer, another special celebration is on the horizon, and as with most special celebrations, the choosing of gifts will be in order!

Read more

Why the act of gifting is important

Why the act of gifting is important

It's just a way of life. With birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, religious celebrations, housewarmings, births and just about any other special occasion you can think of - comes gifting.

Read more

Easter gifts that stand out

Easter gifts that stand out

Easter is a much-loved celebration here in the UK. With all the feasting, chocolate, gifts and of course, the glorious bank holiday weekend, it's no wonder why!

Read more

How to choose a Mother's Day gift that wows

How to choose a Mother's Day gift that wows

As the Spring season draws closer, you'll probably notice that we have a lot to celebrate over the next few months.

Read more

Last minute ideas for a thoughtful Valentine's Day gift

Last minute ideas for a thoughtful Valentine's Day gift

It's almost time for the annual celebration of love - Valentine's day! But are you prepared?

Read more

How to add value to cheap gifts

How to add value to cheap gifts

When things are tight, and your budget isn't huge - how can you add value to a cheap gift?

Read more

Hobby-based original Christmas gift ideas

Hobby-based original Christmas gift ideas

You're probably about half way through your Christmas shopping list and at that stage where you're stuck for ideas on the last few tricky people.

Read more

Christmas Countdown: Gift buying methods

Christmas Countdown: Gift buying methods

We're just weeks away from Christmas! That means it's time to get organized and start thinking about how you're going to get all those gifts for your family and friends.

Read more

Ways to bend the rules of gift giving

Ways to bend the rules of gift giving

Did you know that there are certain unspoken rules when it comes to present-giving? That's right - there's a whole gift-giving etiquette!.

Read more

How soon is too soon to start buying Christmas gifts

How soon is too soon to start buying Christmas gifts

Summer is slowly transitioning into Autumn and it's approaching that time of year when we start thinking about our Christmas plans.

Read more

What Should I Include In My Baby Wish List

What Should I Include In My Baby Wish List

Expecting a little one? I'm sure you already know you'll need a lot of stuff. Luckily, you're not expected to deal with that all by yourself and a baby gift registry is the best way to allow your friends and family to help you out with those all-important baby care items.

Read more

How to host the BBQ of the summer

How to host the BBQ of the summer

Summer has well and truly arrived with clear blue skies and lovely warm heat. That means one thing - it's barbeque season!

Read more

Beating the holiday blues with souvenirs

Beating the holiday blues with souvenirs

I recently returned from a holiday to Barbados. I've been many times before, but this visit was a little more sentimental to me.

Read more

Giving experiences as gifts

Giving experiences as gifts

Experiences can make incredible gifts - if you get them right. I like to give and receive experiences as presents and I find gifting them to be super useful when I really can't think of anything else to get someone.

Read more

How to be a better gift giver

How to be a better gift giver

I've always tried to be an overachiever when it comes to gift giving - there's nothing quite like seeing a person's face light up when they've opened a present from you that they love. Equally, the polite smile that spreads across your loved one's face when they're less than impressed with your gift is something I never want to be the recipient of, which also drives my determination to put a lot of thoughts into my gifts.

Read more

Reasons to give homemade gifts and how to get them right

Reasons to give homemade gifts and how to get them right

Not all gifts have to come with a hefty price tag to be special. In fact, some of the most touching and memorable gifts can be created by you, in the comfort of your own home, for hardly any money.

Read more

Don't forget these essentials if you want to throw an unforgettable party

Don't forget these essentials if you want to throw an unforgettable party

I've been to a lot of parties and thrown a fair few in my time. They take a lot of planning - and in the midst of figuring out where you're going to throw it, who you're going to invite and how you're going to decorate, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.

Read more

Gift-buying on a budget: how to make the thought count

Gift-buying on a budget: how to make the thought count

I've had a lot of friends give birth over the last few years, and a subject that's popped up time and time again is push presents. 'He got you a what?' I exclaimed, the first time a friend had told me she'd been given one. But once she explained what a push present was, I instantly liked the idea of them.

Read more

Why cards are just as important as gifts

Why cards are just as important as gifts

I've kept every single card I've ever received since childhood. Maybe that's just a quirky habit of mine, but I can't ever bring myself to throw them away - there's something so special about them to me.

Read more

Lifting the lid on 'Push presents'

Lifting the lid on 'Push presents'

I've had a lot of friends give birth over the last few years, and a subject that's popped up time and time again is push presents. 'He got you a what?' I exclaimed, the first time a friend had told me she'd been given one. But once she explained what a push present was, I instantly liked the idea of them.

Read more

All the things to love about personalised gifts

All the things to love about personalised gifts

I love buying gifts. I think I love buying gifts more than I love receiving them! Here are some more wonderful reasons to love giving and receiving personalised gifts.

Read more

It's free always has been, always will be