The Creative Christmas Cynic

It may be the season to be merry, but to be honest I dislike the gaudy, loud, expensive, stressful, commercial side of Christmas. As a student whose idea of financial security is refusing to check my bank balance, I actually find the prospect of buying adequate presents for all my friends and family quite worrisome. My wallet is showing signs of a nervous stress disorder by October.

A few days before Christmas day, you’ll see me frantically running around every shop I can find, running home to look for coins in the sofa; counting out pennies and considering the logistics of printing money. I love giving gifts, and I get frustrated that I can’t afford to buy people the perfect ‘pressies’. I actually think the amount of stress buying presents causes me gets in the way of the loving nature of the whole situation.

Plus, the rest of the year I’m trying not to buy things. When I made my 10:10 pledge back in 2010 I realised my main ‘eco weakness’ was being a borderline shopaholic, so I set about changing this. I rarely buy clothes now unless they’re from a second-hand shop. I frown at clothing adverts and sew up my tights. I daydream about wonderful imaginary futures where minerals and trees are left in the ground and we recycle and reuse everything we have: cradle-to-cradle design with none of the material gluttony.

It’s a bit of a weird word really, when you think about it. How can it be a gift before it’s been brought, let alone given to someone? I think marketers must have come up with calling products ‘’gifts’’ because some brave soul in a focus group once piped up and said “actually I think calling them “small pointless items encased in tonnes of gorgeous packaging” might send out the wrong signals… just a thought”.  Anyway, it’s all too easy to get swept up in the consumer-crazy Christmas fever.

Well, this year I am more skint and more determined, here’s a list of ideas for creative, hand-made gifts:

Bottled Bath Salts – My mum recently gave me all these little glass bottles. She had the brilliant idea of making bath salts in them as presents. With some rose petals, lavender and cutely tied ribbons thrown into the mix, they are gorgeous.

Spiced Brandy – Another idea for the lucky possessor of pretty bottles. There are loads of recipes on Google, but here’s one I found which looks delicious: http://www.foodiewithfamily.com/2009/11/29/yuletide-spiced-brandy-liqueur-plan-ahead-make-it-now-to-have-for-christmas/.  I haven’t tried it yet so I hold no responsibility for the outcome!

Illustrated Stories – This may not be practical for everyone, but it is for me because I have a collection of little humorous stories I’ve written. Like really little. Short enough to fit on a typed A4 page. I’m going to illustrate mine with cut-outs and collages, and then staple a sheet of clear plastic over the top for protection. I like this idea because of how personal it is. Although not a useful gift, it would at least be memorable.

Poems – If you really get on a roll, why not write a little poem about your special whoever? Most people would be really touched by this gesture.

Notebooks – This is really simple but a bit over-done. Get an old notebook and cover the front and back cover with patterned paper or fabric, and embellish your heart out with buttons, beads, shape-cutters and etc. You could even write a cute message in the front page. Practise your best handwriting though, if you scrawl like a baboon the little book’s new owner might just rip out the page.

Handmade chocolatesWho wouldn’t be thrilled by this? You can either get serious with the cocoa butter and cocoa powder or just buy loads of big chocolate bars and melt them. Either way, pour the chocolaty gloop into ice cube trays (even better if you have novelty shaped ones) and place in the fridge until they set. You could even use raisins, chopped nuts, coconut flakes, vanilla essence or orange zest to tart up your little beauties. Wrap in coloured tissue paper and voila! Perfect.

Warning: Only undertake any of these projects if you actually have some spare time. Otherwise you’ll just stress yourself out even more and will have to indulge in retail therapy just to make it through December. How counterproductive.

Happy gifting!

Written by Tegan Tallullah

The Verse

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