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turkey, ham and gifts

As the continuous rain floods us into November, I'm (Mark S) getting excited over Friendsgiving; that holiday with your buds where you bring together leftovers you swiped from your own family's hard work to share with others. This is the quintessential re-gifting of food and a second chance at over-eating and all the awesome merriment of a second Thanksgiving. For my group, our holiday usually comes on the heels of the old Black Friday, which has almost successfully evolved into the entire month of November.

A child and young man sit in a room flooded with wrapped and unwrapped Christmas gifts! Credit: MS

I'm here to let you know that I gave up giving holiday gifts out of obligation a few years back and never looked back. Don't get me wrong, I love giving gifts, especially for birthdays. I just prefer they be either useful to the recipient or consumable. My realization came almost 10 years ago from a Christmas with a family who showered each other with dollar store gifts with a real emphasis on playing up the moment of anticipation and tearing open the wrapping paper. Every couple gifts, someone would huck a ball of single-use wrap into a central box or at another person. The importance of the day was really the company and calories consumed that day. Out of 30 or so gifts, 3 or 4 of them were higher-value items that were actually bought from Christmas lists that everyone had shared. January began the shedding of more than 20 junky items to kids, co-workers and trash cans.

Two hands giving a brown gift box with a green bow
Credit: Chermaine Chee

Gift giving doesn't have to be this wasteful! That same year, I got a memorable gift from my mom: my own gift card and a stack of different flavors of Ghirardelli chocolate bars. The variety of those chocolate bars that I ate over the next (shamefully only 3) days sticks with me as one of the best gifts I've received in the last few years. It was inexpensive, it was honed in on my likes (chocolate) and it wasn't something I'd have to guiltily store on a shelf somewhere. Since then, I've given pretty much only consumable gifts. And, you know what? People like receiving my gifts. I think if you include an anecdote or reason why that gift is for them, it's like a bow tie to the whole experience.

A cat chills inside a gift bag
Err, maybe don't reuse THAT bag Credit: lovecatz

Some of you folks may have more sustainable gift lists, whether it's a product of a company who's got all their certifications or services over goods. Another thing to consider is challenging the stigma of used gift-giving. Recently, I found a set of 4 matching ceiling lights on Offerup for the cost of a new one. If you're looking to start giving used gifts, try asking for them one year and get the idea out there. The following year, go nuts with the used gifts! Consider Buy Nothing groups and up-cycled items if you're not confident you can make them yourself. Additionally, there's no shame in re-using tissue and gift bags as opposed to that popular single-use wrap.

I guess I'm trying to remind all of you readers not to overdo it this year. Consider giving a premium version of something you know the recipient likes: coffee, chocolate, soap, beer, or teas. It'll likely be more sustainable than showering them with dollar store items, more personal than a gift card, and just maybe as memorable as a rainbow stack of chocolate bars.


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