No, this isn’t a post about my latest tattoo (I haven’t had a new tattoo since circa 2007!), but about what the lovely Brits refer to as “tat.” I’m sure Americans call it that occasionally, too, but I’d never heard the word used as such until I moved here. Useless junk. Tasteless whatnots. Whatever you want to call it.
Every year at Christmas, I notice more and more Christmas tat lining shelves by shop doors and registers, sections right along main entryways and aisles full of gift sets out the wazoo. I’m not talking about quality products that come in box sets. I’m talking boxes of cheap perfume and cologne, no-name-brand bath soaps, and cheap toys and novelty items that get played with for three days. The cheesy junk that feels like it was left over from a rummage sale. A reindeer hat that will get worn once and then given to a charity shop! A touchscreen stylus in the shape of a carrot! And then, there’s THIS.
Total impulse buys — just walk two inches in a department store and you’re bombarded with candy containers the size of Montana, boxed candle sets that smell more like feet than pine trees, and Christmas-themed EVERYTHING so you can basically buy one of each and be set for your entire gift list.
Seeing all this junk makes me think extra hard about what I buy for people these days. Christmas isn’t JUST about giving, but giving is a lot of what we do at the holidays. And giving isn’t just about buying something on your way to the register so you can fulfil an obligation. Companies package stuff in a clear plastic tray inside an easy-to-store red & green box, practically screaming, “This is an awesome buy! Look, it’s all holiday-ready and all you have to do is stick it in one of these nifty £5 gift bags (when an entire roll of Christmas wrapping paper might only cost £2)!”
I was reminded even more of this last month. Black Friday has made its way to the UK (despite there being no Thanksgiving and national holiday and therefore no crucial day off work on Friday for people to shop). Stores were in the news for hordes of people stampeding for dusty big-screen TVs that no one would touch 2 months ago because they were cheap, overstocked rubbish. But take ten quid off the price, put a bow on them, open the doors 3 hours early, and BAM! Instant sellout.
I love giving gifts. Things I think people will enjoy, or need, not what’s easy to grab on my way toward the tills. Making things or buying personalised items or just something that took a bit of consideration is what I want to do. And the more outrageous the tat gets, the easier it is for me to think about what I’m giving to someone else. I want to say, “I care about you and I thought about you,” not, “I ticked you off a list, here’s random item #8.” It’s so easy to get swept up into the consumerism madness, but it’s all just stuff, in the end. I want the stuff to symbolise something much more important: the love and appreciation I have for someone else being part of my life.
(That’s not to say I didn’t buy a whoopie cushion at a gift shop last summer. But I bought that for myself. 😉
May your Christmas season be filled with love, family, friends, and peace <3