December 25th is a particularly special time of year in my family because it’s my mum’s birthday. As such, me and my brother always get her at least two presents each (I like to buy one and make the other), a separate birthday and Christmas card, and my gran makes two meals. There is nothing quite like roast dinner with veg and gravy and chicken curry with rice on the same plate.
I’ve read poor Charlotte Metcalf’s article a few times now, and it was much better understood after putting it in context via her Twitter feed. The general feeling I get is a profound sense of pity towards her. For me, Christmas is about having a great day with my family and taking stock of the year.
If my mum didn’t buy me anything, I wouldn’t care, because giving me stuff doesn’t demonstrate that she loves me. In fact, the best present she ever gave me was a beautiful polka dot dress that she made herself. Every time I look at that dress in my wardrobe, it reminds me how much I am cared about.
My stepmum grows cacti and gave me an aloe (I think) for Christmas a few years ago, I bloody loved that plant. One of my friends makes pickles. Another friend makes his own fruity liqueurs – raspberry vodka for the win. Last year I taught myself to crochet and made hats for everyone. These presents cost practically nothing to make and yet I couldn’t put a value on them, they are that special to me.
Perhaps the reason people are so angry about her article is that the worry she’s going through is something that the vast majority of people experience all the time, not just at Christmas, and not just in an economic downturn. There are people who have never been in a position to spend £45 on soap because they are too busy making sure they have enough money to feed their children on a weekly basis. One of my friends, the mother in a family of 3, manages to pay for everything on £50 a week. Her daughter’s life is full of love and happiness, and as obvious and soppy as it sounds, these qualities cost nothing.
Poor Charlotte Metcalf, I get the impression that she doesn’t quite know how to show anyone she cares about them without spending money. She’d do well to remember that Christmas presents are just stuff wrapped up nicely, there are better ways to make your children happy.
My Top 5 Cheap Presents:
- Apple sauce: Take a shedload of apples, skin them, chop them, boil them with lemon and voila! Great with pork, or cheese and crackers, or Pringles lovingly dipped. Recipe here.
- Crocheted hats: Chunky wool with a 10mm hook takes less time than DK with a 4mm hook. I use acrylic wool because my skin’s funny with proper wool, but it’s dirt cheap (like £2 a ball, 1/2 a ball to make a hat) and machine washable. Get free patterns here.
- Fruity liqueur: Take some medium quality spirit (I like vodka or white rum), add a load of fruit and sugar. Seal in an airtight bottle and store somewhere cool and dark, like a kitchen cupboard. Shake every day for at least three months and then serve over ice. Yum yum yum.
- Lime pickle: Great on toast. Recipe here. It’s good.
- Throw a party where everyone brings something. A friend of mine throws the best cheese and beer parties every Christmas. Everyone brings a couple of bottles of beer and some obscure dairy product from around the world to his flat and we have a great night. It’s not exactly a present, but I like to think that the presence of good company is presents enough!
Ed: Apparently she wrote a similar article a few months ago in the same paper. Why didn’t she start putting money aside for her daughter’s Christmas present then? I’m pretty sure that’s what my mum used to do for me and my brother. Oh well.