Over the 20th century, the rise of the disposable income coupled with marketing campaigns from stores and industries turned Christmas from a family gathering holiday into a consumerist frenzy. It was inevitable that at some point industrialised societies would reach a sort of saturation: we cannot keep accumulating material possessions endlessly. Also, giving presents is often more about the person giving than receiving…unwanted gifts are legion, with nearly 600 million Euros worth of gifts being resold on E-bay in France after last Christmas.
I have noticed over the years how people increasingly dread Christmas shopping, choose to buy less presents, or rather propose games like Secret Santa. The slew of reports on the damages of over-consumption on the environment have accelerated this trend.
This considered, a tendency has been to choose ethical gifts. For many people Christmas is a spiritual time of year when values such as solidarity, acceptance and forgiveness should be demonstrated. Altruist presents are great in this sense: in the name of someone you can give a goat or a chicken to a family in need through Oxfam. To be clear your financial contribution does not always directly purchase a goat, but will go towards a program that provides these benefits. An alternative is simply to donate to one of the many Belgian NGOs that supports a cause that is dear to you or to the person you want to donate on behalf of.
Another option is to give experiences rather than material presents: give time (for instance offering babysitting to young parents), a gift certificate for a restaurant, theatre or concert tickets, music — the possibilities are endless.
Whatever your choice for others, you can also ask for no presents, or for donations to be made on your behalf to the charity of your choice. Beyond reducing clutter and garbage, you can revive the Christmas spirit of helping others in need in this special time of the year.