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J’adore/J’abhor: Surprise presents

The tree is up and waiting for gifts. But do you like to discover what Santa has bought on the day or did you buy all your own presents yourself? Two Muddy staffers have two very different opinions...

Surprise presents

J’adore – Bucks & Oxon Deputy Editor, Izzy Turner-Hicks

Look, I understand the appeal of firing off a few links in the family WhatsApp group as the Big Day approaches – I’ve even done it myself to help out a floundering husband or time-short family members. But that doesn’t change the fact that surprise presents are part and parcel (if you’ll excuse the pun) of the whole festive season. Half the fun of Christmas isn’t the receiving, but the shopping for that perfect gift that you just know will land right, of discovering something unique and thinking, ‘Ooh, I know EXACTLY who would love this.’ I often struggle to spend money on myself (I know, I know, hard to believe), but when it comes to splashing out on friends and family, I find shopping a totally guilt-free process – which is somewhat ruined when you’re just following links from an Amazon Wishlist.

And tell me if I’m wrong, but the whole point of gifting is to receive something you would never buy for yourself, right? I just love opening oddly shaped presents on Christmas morning, giving it a quick shake first, then peeling back the paper. The anticipation! The excitement! For that moment, all of us are like Charlie peeling back the chocolate bar wrapper to see what’s inside.

Sure, it could be a pair of socks – and that’s fine. Socks, I’ll use. And sometimes it’s a strange clutch bag made entirely of zips or a doorstop shaped like a Christmas pudding (both of which I’ve received, and, if nothing else, make for a hilarious story to recount years later). But sometimes, it’s a luxurious scarf or a beautiful book or a pair of earrings that you absolutely love and would never know existed until someone bought them for you.

Surprises are synonymous with Christmas. It’s part of the fun and precisely why stockings are the best bit (don’t fight me on that).

Surprise presents

J’abhor – Muddy contributor, Lucy Foster

“Oh…erm, thank you?” “It’s great, it’s a.. er…what is it?” “How lovely. I’ll pop it on the mantelpiece here (*drops to whisper*) for about two weeks until I regift it to the charity shop.” Imagine on Christmas Day how many people will utter something along the lines of the above? Thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Potentially millions. And I don’t intend to be one of them.

In this age of landfill, and excess consumerism, and plastic oceans, why would I let my delightful – and not wildly wealthy – family buy me and my children presents that I haven’t specified? They don’t NEED another highly flammable Frozen™ outfit, what they need is warm boots and some pyjamas. Likewise, I have very little use for another insulated travel cup – I ALREADY HAVE SEVEN. But I do drink quite a lot of coffee. And wine. Either of those would be infinitely better and as already discussed, I have a wonderful variety of vessels from which I can enjoy said liquid.

I don’t enjoy feigning delight at opening something that is excess to requirements. Acting (among many, many other things) is not my forte and I’m no good at masking bafflement or ambivalence. Making people feel disappointed on Christmas Day is not high up on my priority list so I’d much rather circumvent that whole scenario. 

Plus, as a Christmas gift-giver myself, I know first-hand the stresses of trying to decide on a present for someone who lives 200 miles away and who you’ve haven’t seen for three years. Letting people know what you want is a service. A kindness, even. It takes the ballache out of roaming the high street (virtually, naturally) for hours on end and, you know, we’re all tight on time and energy. So send the links. Make it easy on everyone. And use that time to enjoy the genuinely important bits of Christmas. Like drinking mulled wine out of a travel cup.

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