A Beautiful Life

Ahh, giftmas grief.

17 December, 2009

The festivus pole
So last night, I decided to put up a festivus pole.

I always get very grumpy around this time of year. It’s unbearably humid, I get flashbacks of my glandular fever symptoms which make me feel as if I were moving through mud, and I think most people are just generally struggling to keep up with working and all the events and shopping and housework and keeping everyone happy and so on and so forth. In my perfect world. I would eliminate Christmas and its rampant commercialisation and feverish gimme-gimme mentality, but this isn’t a perfect world and no matter how many times I try to opt out, I always get roped back in.

Because I’ve never had a whole lot of money, and also because I’m an atheist, Christmas sits uncomfortably with me. I feel a lot of guilt for these things, but also because I am not the world’s greatest present buyer. In fact, sometimes I think I go out of the way to make really uncool presents for people that take a week to make and a second to trash. I hope that my family don’t think of these gifts as disposable, because I do have a subversive kind of motivation for putting myself through hell by giving small and (I think!) thoughtful gifts.

When I was growing up I first noticed it… after all the wrapping paper had been torn from the presents, there ended up being more paper than present. We shoved these screwed up bits of jetsam into deep plastic bags – it took several just to accomodate the debris of the day and as every year passed it alarmed me to think how much paper was wasted on this one day of the year. The presents were mostly very practical (from my parents) but other people tended to exchange trinket gifts: things that aren’t really useful, except to collect deposits of dust and guilt as you chastise yourself for wanting to throw them out every year.

So I started to hand make presents for my family, because I wanted to create a real present that I could give to them instead of some useless piece of junk from the shops. I’ve painted portraits, made jewellery, sewn books, and created other things but last year I got really into creating elaborately crafted packagings for my presents. I don’t know if anyone kept any of the boxes the presents were housed in, but they took the longest time to make – far longer than it took to make or buy what was inside. Somehow, I felt like it was a kind of art project for me to investigate.

Use your noodle box

This year I have created presents for my family that consist of lots of little moments. I’ve still incorporated the hand drawn element, but I wanted to give something more than a thing. So, we bought Chinese takeaway style boxes which I nicknamed “Use your noodle boxes” and they contain little items that prompt the recipient to do things for themselves, or with other people. Games, pampering, self reflection and problem solving – activities that I feel are really important. I hope that the recipients of these gifts find them useful!

Presents!

People have called me a Grinch and a Scrooge, but it’s not that I think Christmas is stupid – I have fun catching up with my family and having discussions and laughs about things. I wish it was more about making memories like that instead of about “who got who what”, and “someone didn’t give that person a present”, and “I’m exchanging this for something better”. I still feel guilty that I’m not getting people “kick arse awesome” presents from a retail chain, but I think I’m giving something much nicer, something from my love – a gift that can be shared, swapped, used, and remembered.

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  • I love your noodle box idea! Can I ask what were a few of the things you put inside them? I'm not real Christmassy either but I have to admit I like giving people presents and I *sort* of pride myself on being able to get people things they would really love and use. When I say “people”, I just mean my brothers and parents – the only people I really care about :P

  • Ok I hope mum doesn't read the comments (DON'T LOOK MUM) but I put in things like – journals (too big to fit in, but anyway!), hand made brooches, waterballoons for a water fight (each person gets their own colour), origami paper and instructions to make one thing that can then be shared with everyone else, face masks, seeds for various flowers and vegies, random lollies, etc! You could put in tiny pencils and graph paper to doodle on, mini calendars, magnets, and other things too.

  • I love the idea very creative love it I like giving people presents
    and your idea fits my descriptions.

  • Tash

    Awesome ideas! Consider them stolen :P
    I like how each present is sort of designed to be something to share with everyone, that's the best part. You so great Natalie.

  • You are way too hard on yourself. You have this giftmas thing sorted, and I would be so happy to have you as part of my family!

    We're pretty good in our family, we buy small things for immediate family only (siblings & parents) and it's generally stuff that has been specifically asked for, and therefore not just random trinkets, or it's useful stuff. Like this year we all put in to get mum a new cellphone. I'm getting her partner a CD he wants, The Boy got a watch from the UK.

    The Boy's mum does cool presents like you. Last year she gave us a bag with some rose oil moisturiser, fancy origami paper and instructions, cookies she had made and maybe a couple of other things along those lines.

  • wino1970

    I see you as a very generous person and not Grinch like at all. I too am an atheist and think Xmas is very commercially motivated (now there's an insight heh heh heh). But in my life with kids, I actually love this time of yr. They are on hols (me too since looking after other people's kids is what I do to pay the bills :D), they are the most fun people I have in my life, they are still not teenagers and subject to hormonal freak outs. We don't go OTT on pressies and plastic bits o' rubbish. Rather it's the time of yr for getting few things they have wanted over that past yr, having fun together and making the house look as gaudy and ridiculous as possible. I love to cook, so I make lot's of yummy things, friends come round cos they can and we just have a lovely holiday. I can cook but I can't “make” so I am in adoration of the lovely things you have made for people. I would def. go that route if I could. Gorgeous.
    PS: Yeah, it's HOT and I am getting over a virus. My body feels as if moving through liquid, my head is foggy and it's just awful and I live in one of the cooler areas of NSW. I could not cope living in QLD, how do you do it????

  • Aww TB's mum sounds like my kindred spirit!!! I do worry that I haven't gotten people things they want, but I try not to let it over rule me… sometimes this time of year can be really hard :/

  • It's hard to fit in to the season if you don't have Christian faith to relate to it, and the consumerist focus also bothers me so deeply!! It is a really nice time of year to bring all your loved ones together though, and I always look forward to that.

    Viruses in summer are evil! I hope you get over it soon, I'm very surprised I haven't caught one yet!! I resent QLD every day of summer, and I really don't know how I survive :P

  • lol! I totally love that you've put up a Festivus pole! We joke about it every Christmas but never actually do it! That's brilliant.