28 December 2007

M'Baaaaaaah Humbug

There is an article on the BBC from Christmas Eve on how to receive a charity or unwanted gift, referring to the mixed emotions that one feels when they realise that instead of being bought a present, their friend, relative, co-worker or future-persona-non-grata has given the money to charity instead, and left them with a picture of a goat. The article itself is fairly bland, but the comments below show just how divided the audience is (with one person commenting that it would be the end of a friendship if they received a charity donation).

As it happens I gave almost nothing but Oxfam gifts this year. Two years ago I sat with my management team in work and suggested that instead of buying everyone in our department a token Christmas gift, everyone on their teams could donate €5 and I would match the total amount, and give it to a charity of their choice. Oxfam was the unanimous decision, and the range of toilets, goats, business start-up schemes and buckets captured everyone's imagination. This year the Very Understanding Girlfriend and I decided to brave my family's scorn and do the same for our personal presents.

However I wrestled with the fear that they would not necessarily get the idea of sending a toilet to Africa, so we decided to include with each Oxfam gift card a nearly-new gift from our overflowing cupboards of Stuff-That-Takes-Up-Space. In this way we tried to avoid the consumerism of Christmas by not buying new stuff, reducing our own collection of dust-gathering consumables, sending money where it will do the most good and still (hopefully) giving something that people will actually like.

And how did my family react to the Oxfam donations? As it happens my sister and her partner gave us the exact same gift in return. Pretty Cool.

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