Sunday, 27 November 2011


4 weeks left to Christmas, and any efforts to repress that fact have been futile. Everywhere you look, a thousand little lights warming up the cold Swedish night. Shop windows dressed in gold, red and green. People walking around wrapped in their winter coats, smiling lovingly at each other and taking in the wonderful atmosphere. And Christmas songs accompany them on their walk through the city.

Lovely picture. Shame it's not exactly true. Yes, people have already decorated their balconies with Christmas lights, that are going to stay on – in some cases – until March (it's true. I have that kind of neighbours). Shop windows are indeed dressed in glorious colours, to lure you in to buy junk. People aren't smiling, however. They're stressed because they have so many presents to buy. And those Christmas songs? The 1238924th time I hear ”Let it Snow” I'm going to murder someone with some gift wrapping ribbon and the CD player's electrical cord.

I'm going to get less training oriented and more political here for a second. Unless you're a child, you can most likely afford the things you need (and what do we really need, if we have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies?). Unless you're a child, this whole present exchange tradition has you driving around like an agitated maniac, running over pedestrians and trying to find a gift for your great aunt Esmeralda. Who, by the way, doesn't even know it's Christmas. She thinks the Germans are about to invade.

It's stressful. Most importantly, it's meaningless. In most cases, we buy presents because we feel we have to, otherwise people are going to think we don't care about them. Because nothing says ”I love you” like plastic crap that's made in China or cheap clothes that are made by child labourers in Taiwan. We rush into shops to buy yet another pair of socks for Grampa and all this time, fat cats around the world are sitting in their mansions rubbing their hands together and laughing diabolically, because the greatest trick they ever pulled was to convince people that Christmas is about consuming. Consuming worthless, needless stuff. Consuming enormous amounts of mass-produced chocolate and alcohol. Consuming greedily with our wallets and with our bellies, while our misguided hearts go hungry. They created a picture of how the perfect Christmas should be, only they left out the most important ingredients: warmth and meaning. Without them, Christmas is an empty shell. Beautiful on the surface, but empty. While landfill sites are getting filled to the brim with our waste.

I tried to remember what presents I got for Christmas as a child and I can't remember a single one. Well, except for that rad electric guitar I got when I was 16. It's not because I didn't get any presents, it's because I appreciated other things more (yes, even as a child. Especially as a child). I remember the big family gatherings and breaking bread together. Sitting by our fireplace. The cold outside and building a snowman with my brother, on a good year when we got white Christmas. The house slowly getting filled with the scent of baked goods that my dad had prepared. The taste of my mom's special mayo salad. That's what the essence of Christmas is for me. Being with my family. I can't remember a single present but I remember this.

So buy less this Christmas. There's nothing wrong with giving; on the contrary, it's a wonderful gesture. But make your own gifts. Bake cookies, make a scarf, give a special photo you've taken, write a poem if you're so inclined, or help to paint someone's house if you're not. Give away something that you have lying around, that someone else might need. Promise that person that you'll do them a favour, should they need one. Spend time with your kids, because that's what they need the most, not video games – play a board game, listen to them, go for a walk with them. And if you absolutely MUST buy something, consider buying second-hand, a book (feeds your mind, at least) or lottery tickets from charity. Here in Sweden there's, for example, Cancerfonden, that has such winnings in the pot as vacations, food for a year and more – and if that lottery ticket you bought isn't the winning one, your money has gone to a very good cause: fighting cancer.


  1. So very true- in England the shops this time of year are awful- horrible Slade music (I cannot stand it)- a few years ago we went to Copenhagen for the weekend and it was so much nicer- pretty lights not garish, and gentle festive music, not horrible pop/rock/commercial rubbish. I decided to make a few presents this year- jam, cakes, fudge, as I think spending the time means a lot too.

  2. Tack för diin fina kommentar!

    Och för mig är julen att få vara med familjen, äta god mat - få tid att laga från grunden :) Ledighet!

    Bra skrivet!