What gift could be greater than the gift of not going Christmas shopping?by Sam Leith / December 10, 2015 / Leave a comment
Oh Christmas. Christmas. Why do you torment me thus? Every year the John Lewis ad, the first sign of overhead lighting on Regent Street, the first sound of Noddy Holder’s voice in a retail environment, gives me a twinge of agony. Like mental toothache.
This is not Scroogery. I don’t dislike Christmas. Carols, chestnuts, turkey, afternoon snooze, mince pies, being sick on eggnog, crackers, the Queen’s speech: all in my top ten favourite things, give or take. And I don’t begrudge the expenditure, either: I love giving people presents. I’d like to sweep through Selfridges, Hamleys, Waterstones and Gosh! Comics fountaining money behind me like some sort of money lawnmower whose grass-collecting attachment has fallen off.
It’s the choosing! Consumer society has given us an effectively infinite number of things we can buy as presents; you’d think I’d have option paralysis, rather than the opposite. But I have the opposite. I cannot think of a single thing to buy for the people who matter most to me: things that, you know, they might actually want and not already have.
Children are pretty easy. Children don’t have money to buy stuff, so they get excited about getting stuff, full stop. Lego fire engine, glow-in-the-dark lightsaber… they’re happy with any old tat. Parents, siblings, old friends and wives, on the other hand—wives especially—are fricking impossible. Clothes, an old standby, are high risk: most adults who have opinions about clothes don’t want to get clothes from an adult who doesn’t. Cookery equipment? They all now own a Le Creuset pot. Scent? Done it. Books or CDs? Nobody plays CDs any more, do they? And I can’t give books because—my day job being a literary journalist—everyone will assume that I’m simply “regifting” free copies from publishers. Scarves? An old friend of mine actually cried on Christmas Day when she received 14 scarves. And let’s not even start on slipper-socks and hot water bottles.
Just as Godwin’s Law states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one,” Leith’s Law states that “As a family relationship grows longer, the probability of a Christmas…