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Sharon Bill Music Tutor & Author

Priceless or Worthless?


Christmas shopping can be a depressing business, especially when everybody already has what they want or need. I hate just buying a perfunctory gift - it feels like throwing your money to the wind. I’ve taken to making gifts more and more and I’ve always understood that these gestures have been enjoyed and appreciated. I certainly love to receive handmade gifts but I’ve recently had a crisis of confidence as I’ve discovered that not everybody thinks this way.

There’s nothing more thoughtless than trekking around the shops to find a mandatory gift, purely to fill the wrapping paper with something - anything. When the chances are that the gift will not really be wanted, although the gesture appreciated, I really hate wasting money and forcing mere 'stuff’ onto my friends and relatives. It’s always inevitable that a certain gift might not always hit the spot, but it’s such a waste of money and it’s a heartless task in finding a random something for form’s sake.

A few of my friends share in taking part in the £5 challenge and we often spend all year scouting for the best that we can creatively find within that budget. Honour and kudos is at stake to fulfil the challenge and often a homemade item or two boosts the result. One year I hacked apart an old choir uniform that was mercifully updated and made christmas tree decorations with it. My friend always excels in a bizarre approach to the gift wrapping. In years past the wrapping has been themed by quotes from our choir conductor during rehearsals for the christmas concert and previous piano exam pieces. The wrapping is so much ‘the thing’ that it’s almost (only almost) irrelevant what the gifts inside are.

Some of us have a longstanding agreement for christmas and birthdays that we will only buy something if we see something that we know the recipient would like. If inspiration doesn’t strike then we simply won’t buy anything and we certainly won’t go hiking around the stores desperate to buy something or just anything - we don’t want to incur stress just because the calendar turns to a specific date. My sister and I don’t buy christmas gifts - we have far too many children between us - but instead we buy a gift at any time of the year and give a spontaneous present when circumstances are positive.

This year I’ve made flower arrangements and boozy christmas cake to give as gifts to those who I’d like to give a gesture of goodwill to, just a token gift without encumbering folks with stuff that will just clutter them up. However it seems that not everybody sees things this way, some people really do just want lots of ‘stuff’ and economy or budget is simply no excuse!

I heard a radio interview where people called in and discussed their views on homemade gifts and some of the callers found the whole concept mean and insulting, the very thought of it literally disgusted them. I couldn’t believe my ears! I suppose I could understand it if the gift was poorly made, although even that depends upon the giver. When the children were very small they made gifts for family members and a pristine finish would have been unlikely, but the gesture was appreciated nevertheless. One of the reasons that disgust was registered was because of a sense of mean spirited giving. However, this presumes that the giver has the money to spend and also that the homemade gift is bound to be cheaper. I’m horrified that anybody would want their friends or family to spend more than they could afford. Also, it’s also a mistake to presume that a homemade gift costs less than a bought one. Many shops sell gifts at knockdown prices - even Poundland has some really nice bits and bobs (the wool is marvellous). It’s fair to say that my christmas cakes really weren’t the economy option - they cost a fortune in brandy alone! I even presented them on a quality christmas plate.

Maybe even handmade gifts are just ‘stuff’ at the end of the day and maybe there are those that wouldn’t appreciate the time and effort expended, nor the thought associated with the gift. Nevertheless, I shall continue to give such gifts and assume that when my friends say that they love the thought and application that has gone into their bespoke present I’ll take them at their word.