A version of this article originally appeared on VICE Germany.
If you’re reading this, it’s possible that you are in the chaotic position of having not bought your Christmas presents yet. Relax: if ever there was a year full of legitimate excuses to be a scrooge, it’s this very special, very cursed holiday season.
Between shuttered shops, loss of income and the small issue of not being able to physically catch up with many of our loved ones, you can take your pick of get-out-jail-free cards and be done with it. But if you are trying desperately to fan the dying flame of Christmas spirit in your heart, consider these humble tips on what to steer clear of this gift-giving season – and avoid making someone’s year that little bit worse.
Let’s get this one out of the way. It’s never the right time to gift a pet, but now is really, quite seriously, not the time. Getting a pet in lockdown is a risky move when entered into voluntarily. And trust me, when your loved one wakes up in that dark, no-man’s land of mid-January only to find their new and completely unsolicited puppy has left a shit underneath the withering Christmas tree, they’ll blame you.
2. CHARITY DONATIONS
Is this just me? Am I a bad person? Maybe, but hear me out: If you really want to give to charity, there’s nothing stopping you. In fact, if you have the means and you still don’t, that’s pretty bad. But waking up on Christmas morning to discover your best friend has donated €20 to Save the Donkeys in your name is going to be a cruel, albeit fitting, cap on top of a savage year.
3. EXPERIENCES THAT WON’T ACTUALLY HAPPEN (AT LEAST FOR A WHILE)
Let’s face it, some things just aren’t on the agenda right now. Think big fancy dinners, travel and, well, anything that involves groups of people enjoying themselves. Can’t we just embrace the abyss and forget those activities ever existed for a little while? Grim, yes, but better than buying your loved one a massage voucher that will be stuck on the fridge for months on end, reminding them each time they see it that maybe they don’t love you – maybe they actually hate you, a little bit.
This category sits adjacent to “experiences that won’t happen”, but is given the dubious honour of being slightly worse because you haven’t actually paid for anything. Giving your mum a card that says “Merry Christmas, IOU dinner at your fave restaurant… eventually!!” isn’t going to come off as “zany” and “of the times” as you might hope. Come on, what are you actually giving this person? A free pass for your guilty conscience and lack of imagination? Best to just go with nothing.
5. BOOKS THEY WON’T READ (AND YOU HAVEN’T READ)
I’ll leave the subtleties of this category to you. Be honest, you know when you’re doing this. Some people really do read the Man Booker-winner every year. You know who these people are and who they aren’t – if your dad hasn’t opened a book all year, he’s probably not going to thank you for the 700-page history doorstop you “um, heard was really groundbreaking”. Look, buying books can never really sit in the terrible gift-giving category and you should support your local bookshop, but just buy something they’ll at least try to read, and won’t make them feel like shit.
6. ANYTHING CRAP
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it! Don’t give your loved ones crap, tat shit that will just end up in the bin – or worse, on the mantlepiece for the required number of months before they can dump it in the bin, guilt free. The world is dying and it’s literally raining plastic, just write your mate a nice heart-felt letter before you resort to the novelty shop panic-buy you think is better than nothing.
7. THE GIFT YOU WANT
This is a cheeky one. In all honesty, I admire this move. Giving your partner the clear object of your own desires is deliciously devious. Extra points if it’s something really practical and soulless, like a vacuum cleaner. My advice here is simple: if you’re willing to go this length to get it, it’s a sign you should just buy it for yourself. Enjoy.
I know, I didn’t have to say it. But didn’t I? This Christmas is going to be “unconventional” at best, but there really is one shitty present to rule them all. We all love our grandparents, but maybe instead of a hug, they’ll just have to settle for a phone call or a socially distanced glass of champagne this year.