All I want for Christmas is nothing you can buy

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Christmas presents in my flat last year

Christmas as an adult is just plain weird.  It’s a day meant for children.  Father Christmas, stockings under the fireplace, presents you never dreamed of and more food than you can imagine.  When you’re little, the days seem to stretch out forever.  School breaks up and then there’s a WHOLE WEEK until Christmas, which you can fill by decorating the tree, hanging the Christmas cards, visiting friends, and re-reading every Christmas themed book you can find.

Then you get to the day itself and it’s out of this world.  I remember the Christmas I was seven being given £50 by my grandparents and not being able to believe it was all for me – it was more money than I’d ever seen (my pocket money was 70p per week).  I thought it must be to share, and started handing out notes to my family until my mum explained that yes, it really was all for me.  I think that money lasted me a year.

Sometimes I think about that moment of childhood wonder these days, when I take £50 out of a cashpoint on a Friday night and wake up on Saturday afternoon to find it all gone.  Back then, my Christmas lists were wild dreams, based on a complete lack of understanding of the value of money, and a complete thrill at receiving anything at all.

Now, I can buy anything I need.  I’m a middle class professional, I’m not rich by any means (I work in the public sector!), but I have plenty of money to buy the things I need – train fares, bills, food, a few nights out, a couple of midweek dinners, £6 vietnamese for lunch just because it’s so incredibly good, merino wool jumpers from Gap because they’re just so soft.  I can’t afford flashy dinners, or designer clothes, or a rose gold iPhone, but I don’t need those things – and I don’t really want them either.  I have cheapskate taste.  And when it comes to presents, if I can’t afford it, my parents certainly can’t – and I would feel guilty taking such an expensive gift from them.

In the same way, I find it very hard to shop for them.  They’re not very consumerist people and have most of the things they want.  Anything they don’t have but do want (a Skoda Octavia, of all things) I can’t afford to give them.  So buying presents becomes slightly strange.

Trying to come up with a list of things I want this year, I’ve been thinking about what made last Christmas so good.  No arguments, plenty of family time, laughter, and the opportunity to see my friends.

Those are the things I want this Christmas: time, friendship, food, and laughter.  The world is so busy these days, every time I see my friends it’s “oh, it’s been too long” because we’ve been working, and house hunting, and job hunting, and wedding planning, and thesis writing, and we miss each other.  What I want this Christmas is time: time with my friends and family, and time to enjoy myself.

So this Christmas, I’m going to try and make more time for people.  Say yes to more things, instead of panicking and feeling like I need to shop instead.  Because the best present to a busy twenty-something is really a bottle of something cold, a switched-off phone, and a whole evening of not having to think about work or the last train.  Cheers!

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