Editorial – Stuff It

?Tis the season for goodwill, time with family and friends?and stuff.

Yes, stuff. The stuff that the unceasing efforts of retailers, advertisers, and corporations convince us that we need. We must join the sweaty, frazzled hordes on the road and at the mall, seeking out just the right sweater-cellphone-cookware-printer-camera to wrap up and place under the tree. After all, it isn’t really Christmas without stuff, is it?

This isn’t a diatribe against giving. Far from it. In this mishmash of religion, custom, and commercialism that the 21st-century Christmas has come to be, the one thing That’s remained relatively intact is that at the holiday’s core is a spirit of giving (although I don’t think the original message had much to do with the retail kind).

Instead, this is a criticism of the mindless giving of stuff?that particular brand of madness that has us dashing out each December and piling debt onto our credit cards just so that we can be seen to meet some sort of commercially imposed quota of packages. (Did you get the same number of gifts for everyone? Is one child’s pile of presents bigger than the other’s?)

Other holidays have succumbed to the same commercial-driven pressure?Easter, Valentine’s Day?but the modern Christmas seems to be the epitome of giving gone wrong. As the faces of harried shoppers behind every wobbly wheeled shopping cart in every chain store reveal, they might not know what to buy, but they’ve got to buy something.

So as our planet (and basements and attics and U-Store-Its) stagger under the weight of accumulated stuff, here’s a thought: make this a stuff-free Christmas.

By all means, give. Take the time to find something thoughtful for friends and family. (In a perfect world, we’d all give the gift of time and attention, but the topic of hectic modern lifestyles can wait for another day.) Instead, make it a point to give gifts that can only be kept as a warm feeling or happy reminiscence in the receiver’s memory.

You can spend as much or as little as you want, and it doesn’t take any more time than shopping for regular ?stuff? would: the only condition is that, when the recipient has finished enjoying your gift, there’s nothing physical left.

That doesn’t mean you have to fall back on the old standby of a gift certificate at the mall. In fact, that kind of defeats the whole purpose. There are enormous (and fun) possibilities. A wonderful meal in a favourite (or new) restaurant. A massage, or even an entire day at the spa. An introductory lesson for a sport or hobby someone has always wanted to try; if It’s in your budget, give them a set of lessons. Bath accessories; gourmet cooking ingredients. All consumable, all enjoyable.

Buy someone tickets to a play, or a rock concert, or the Indy 500. Give a couple with young kids the night off: pay for an evening’s time of their favourite babysitter and a couple of tickets to a movie. Or, in the true spirit of giving, make a donation in the recipient’s name to a charity you know they support.

This year, fill your holiday with good times, good food, and wonderful memories. Just don’t stuff it.

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