Let’s be brutally honest. Buying presents isn’t a chore, it’s a nightmare, a tyranny which has us enslaved. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t want to give presents, I actually enjoy giving things which people will enjoy receiving. But there’s the rub: How do you know what people would like to have. It’s not even the choosing which is the problem, it’s having an idea in the first place.
With Easter coming up and grandchildren’s birthdays not too long after that, the next batch of present-buying is looming depressingly large. Easter should in theory be simple: just give a chocolate egg. Simple? Not at all!!
Once you get the past the mindboggling fact that the origins and rationale of giving eggs to celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ has pagan roots and nothing to do with Christianity, you then have to get past the more recent transmogrification of the egg into something made of chocolate, and then stumble into the abyss of choosing from the trillions of variations of chocolate egg on offer from the end of the January sales onwards. Myriads of decisions. What size? What type of chocolate? Filled or unfilled? Filled with goo or bags of other chocolates? If other chocolates what sort? A solid egg or one in 2 halves separately wrapped in glittery foil? Indeed, wrapped or unwrapped? On their own or packaged up with an Easter bunny? Mini eggs made from solid chocolate in a sugar coating …. on their own in a bag or inside a bigger egg? And then the eco-decisions. How much packaging? Cellophane wrapper? Simple cardboard box? Cardboard box with inserts top and bottom to hold it in place? Foil wrapper inside the boxes?
In Greece the older tradition of giving a painted hardboiled egg is for the moment clinging on but the marketing boys are working on that one I’m sure. It’s an untapped market.
The choice of Easter presents is narrowed down to two basic motifs: eggs and/or bunnies. But other presents are, more terrifyingly, not circumscribed. Birthdays and Christmas are both completely open choices. The most traumatic times for me are December/January with Christmas and birthdays, April/May with Easter and birthdays and October with yet another clutch of birthdays plus the facts that exhaustion has set in and depression has descended because in just two months it will time to start all over again. But where do you start?
For children there is the dilemma between getting something educational and ‘improving’ or something they actually want: the fleuro pink pony with dressing up outfits for girls and the builders outfit and tools for boys. How do you explain on Boxing Day that the pony is unlikely to survive a dunk in the bath or that it’s not a good idea to mend the TV screen with the hammer. And at what age do they cease being ‘children’? If they are not immediate family at what stage do we stop giving to them?
For older people do you buy something practical like a new drill or a set of new saucepans? ‘Something for the home’ like an ornament or a plant? Or something personal like bottle of smell …. or whisky? People of ‘mature years’ and those with no knowledge of what it is to be financially challenged have got everything they need practically and a house cluttered with gifts not yet recycled via charity shops, triggering the clichéd question “what do you give someone who has everything?”.
And how much to spend? That at least is not really an issue. Unless you earn as a bonus in a year many times what the likes of me earn in a lifetime – (such income levels are reimbursement for the stress of gambling with other people’s money) you simply decide what you can afford. The one thing you don’t do is to decide how much to spend on the basis of ‘what they will expect’. If you do earn mega-bucks then you don’t need to think what you can afford but just buy the diamond studded neti-pot or the new Porsche, whatever will make the desired impact.
It seems to be a general view that women are better at choosing and buying presents than blokes, that they have some kind of innate radar which leads them to the right things. It is certainly folk-lore that women begin stocking up on presents in the January sales. And it also certainly true that my present-buying is very much last-minute. But really it’s just that blokes abdicate the responsibility and when it cannot be avoided put the task off until the last possible moment.
On a brighter note, there have been quite a number of days of good weather over the last week with plenty of opportunity for getting on with the gardening and going out walking. Up on the mountain top the visibility has been so good that the other side of the Bristol Channel has been crystal clear. Small settlements and even individual buildings could be picked out and on Sunday you could even see the English lining the roadsides weeping and wringing their hands, mourning the fact that Wales had won the Grand Slam yet again. Yes indeed, things have brightened up quite a bit recently.
For the history of the Easter Egg see: